The Hundred Secret Senses

The Hundred Secret Senses

by Amy Tan


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780143119081
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/28/2010
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 152,910
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Amy Tan is the author of The Joy Luck Club, The Kitchen God’s Wife, The Hundred Secret Senses, The Bonesetter's Daughter, The Opposite of Fate, Saving Fish from Drowning, and two children’s books, The Moon Lady and The Chinese Siamese Cat, which has been adapted as Sagwa, a PBS series for children. Tan was also the co-producer and co-screenwriter of the film version of The Joy Luck Club, and her essays and stories have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies. Her work has been translated into more than twenty-five languages. Tan, who has a master’s degree in linguistics from San Jose University, has worked as a language specialist to programs serving children with developmental disabilities. She lives with her husband in San Francisco and New York.


San Francisco, California and New York, New York

Date of Birth:

February 19, 1952

Place of Birth:

Oakland, California


B.A., San Jose State University, 1973; M.A., 1974

What People are Saying About This

Michiko Katukani

Ms. Tan has . . . injected a large dose of supernatural whimsy into her story in an effort to explore the connections between the generations. The results are decidedly mixed: a contemporary tale of familial love and resentment, nimbly evoked in Ms. Tan's guileless prose, and unfortunately overlaid by another, more sensational tale of reincarnation that undermines the reader's trust. . . -- The New York Times

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The Hundred Secret Senses 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 80 reviews.
MissPrint More than 1 year ago
While Amy Tan is an amazingly talented writer with a lot of great books under her belt, she is arguably most well known as the author of The Joy Luck Club, which I have yet to read. I did, however, read The Hundred Secret Senses (originally published in 1996) not once but twice. I almost never do that because the second reading just feels boring. However, that wasn't the case with this book because it was so enjoyable and rich that rereading felt more like visiting old friends than rehashing something I already knew. While on the subject of this novel's freshness, it bears mention that some reviewers suggested The Hundred Secret Senses was little more than a rehash of previous, very similar, plots from her earlier books. Obviously, I can't speak for The Joy Luck Club but I did read The Kitchen God's Wife which had a similar theme but in my view an entirely different plot. I also happened to think this novel was the markedly better of the two. Olivia's mother is American, her father Chinese. She comes from a "traditional American family." At least for the most part. At the age of eighteen, Kwan entered the lives of Olivia (then four) and her family from her native China. Nothing about Kwan is American from her accent to her belief that she has yin eyes to see "those who have died and now dwell in the World of Yin, ghosts who leave the mists just to visit her kitchen on Balboa Street in San Francisco." These ghosts are not only a fundamental part of the story but one of the main reasons Olivia can never truly get along with her older sister. For a while, it seems like Olivia will be able to ignore Kwan's eccentricities and lead her own, American, life. But the more Olivia hears, the more Kwan's old ghosts stories intrigue her. Their enticement grows when Olivia unexpectedly finds herself traveling to China with her husband, Simon, and Kwan for a magazine assignment. As the three navigate Kwan's childhood stomping grounds, surprising connections are made between the threesome and, amazingly, with one of Kwan's ghost stories. The novel chronicles Olivia's relationship with Kwan as well as her early courtship and eventual estrangement from Simon. At the same time, in alternating chapters, The Hundred Secret Senses tells the story of one of Kwan's past lives in China during the 1800s--a dramatic love story closely tied to Kwan's (and Olivia's) present lives. Tan's prose here is conversational and enticing, feeling like a friend telling a particularly juicy story at dinner or over the phone. The connections between past, present and the very distant past is seamless creating a tight narrative that, by the end of the book, weaves all aspects of the story together in a neat package. At the same time, The Hundred Secret Senses offers an interesting commentary on assimilation and multi-cultuarism with both Olivia and Simon being half-white and half-Chinese. Although Olivia might be too old to say she comes of age in this novel, it would be fair to say she learns to accept her own identity by the novel's completion. While all of that makes for a dynamo on its own, my favorite aspect of this book is the way in which it deals with family relations both romantically (with Olivia and Simon) and otherwise (with Olivia and Kwan). The story ends with an optimism that suggests, if you are willing to see them, loved ones are never very far away.
steveiewoolf More than 1 year ago
American Chinese Olivia Laguni finds out she has an older Chinese half sister, Kwan Li, after her father’s death bed confession to her mother.  From initially being excited about the prospect of having a sister the six year olds excitement soon evaporates and turns into embarrassment and resentment of her mangled English speaking sister. This embarrassment is compounded by Kwan’s belief that she can see and talk to dead people in the World of Yin. Interwoven with Olivia’s story of her life in San Francisco are the stories told by Kwan of her former life in China.  The sisters are the narrators, with Olivia being the primary one. The main body of the novel has Olivia relating her life in San Francisco between the 1960s and the 1990s. As Olivia grows up she continues to be embarrassed by her half sister Kwan who is twelve years older than Olivia. Kwan’s broken English and her lack of knowledge of American ways creates a climate of bullying and teasing for Olivia as other children perceive Kwan to be a ‘retard’. This childhood trauma and subsequent dislike and resentment of Kwan bleeds through to Olivia’s adulthood and is exacerbated by Kwan’s interference in Olivia’s relationship with her partner Simon. Kwan, however, unreservedly loves her little sister even when it transpires that because of Olivia, Kwan is sent to a mental hospital due to her belief that she can see dead people.  During Olivia’s childhood Kwan tells her ‘ghost stories’. Stories of the dead people she sees. These stories continue into adulthood and in addition Kwan recounts stories of her past lives.  Convolutedly, Kwan, Olivia and Simon visit China and in particular where Kwan grew up.  The author of bestseller The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan, has crafted an ornate, chiaroscuro like piece of work with The Hundred Secret Senses. The novel is about America and China, life and death, cultural incongruities and the difficulty of filial devotion to one’s siblings. However, fundamentally the novel is about relationships; the relationship between married couples, siblings, parents and their children and the most difficult relationship we all face, between the living and the dead. Amy Tan handles all these issues with adroit aplomb. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book years ago and i loved it so much i kept the book to read again, which is something i never do!
name99 on LibraryThing 3 months ago
I listened to this to get something of a feel for China, and truth is, I found it much more moving than I expected. The China background was nice, and interesting, but it also simply happens to be a very compelling story.
vegaheim on LibraryThing 3 months ago
little girl olivia gets a halfsister, kwan, from china. kwan is very traditional and superstitious. tells olivia about ghosts etc. explores relationship between the two during the years (from childhood to adulthood) ending is supernatural, great
magst on LibraryThing 3 months ago
What can I say that I haven't already said... GREAT BOOK!!!!
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Never wanted this book to end! I read books the way an addict does their drug of choice....i can never get enough! So when i tell you that this book was excellent you must realize that i read enough to know what's good! I learned so much about people, life, choices, and myself!!! Could'nt put it down and feel like i have become a better person from reading it! Also....i never take the time to leave a review after even books i have loved! So what does that tell you!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Two deverse cultures plus a paranormal bunch of ghosts is a tangled web that doesnt work frankly less ghosts sightings seen and not heard when this was written before or after she was able to write again
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cjtegCG More than 1 year ago
This is the first of Amy Tan novels that I read because I am under the impression that it is the first one and I want to read them in order. I absolutely love the strong China culture woven into this novel and I love the story. Not predictable & excellent writing style. I wrote something to this about the second one of her novels that I read: that I am a non fiction reader because there is so very much to learn about everything in our world..but I gave Amy Tan a try and there is so very much of the China culture in here that I consider it almost fact..not fiction.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of the best books I've read in a while.
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Brittney Braxton More than 1 year ago
Really enjoyed this book. At some points I was so frustrated by Libby-yas analysis and logic to things, especially her big fights with Simon, but they at the same time felt real. Some people deal with situations like this. In all, the ending was sad but a beautiful ending. I wish i had a Kwan figure in my life.
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