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The Hundred Secret Senses [Paperback]

Amy Tan
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (163 customer reviews)
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Book Description

June 30 1998 Vintage Contemporaries
The Hundred Secret Senses is an exultant novel about China and America, love and loyalty, the identities we invent and the true selves we discover along the way. Olivia Laguni is half-Chinese, but typically American in her uneasiness with her patchwork family. And no one in Olivia's family is more embarrassing to her than her half-sister, Kwan Li. For Kwan speaks mangled English, is cheerfully deaf to Olivia's sarcasm, and sees the dead with her "yin eyes."

Even as Olivia details the particulars of her decades-long grudge against her sister (who, among other things, is a source of infuriatingly good advice), Kwan Li is telling her own story, one that sweeps us into the splendor, squalor, and violence of Manchu China. And out of the friction between her narrators, Amy Tan creates a work that illuminates both the present and the past sweetly, sadly, hilariously, with searing and vivid prose.

"Truly magical...unforgettable...this novel...shimmer[s] with meaning."--San Diego Tribune

"The Hundred Secret Senses doesn't simply return to a world but burrows more deeply into it, following new trails to fresh revelations."--Newsweek

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Tan's novel of the conflicts between two very different Chinese American sisters spent 12 weeks on PW's bestseller list.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

YA?Olivia, the narrator of this story, was born to an American mother and a Chinese father. She meets her 18-year-old Chinese half sister, Kwan, for the first time shortly after their father's death. Kwan adores "Libby-ah" and tries to introduce her to her Chinese heritage through stories and memories. Olivia is embarrassed by her sibling, but finds as she matures that she has inadvertently absorbed much about Chinese superstitions, spirits, and reincarnation. Olivia explains, "My sister Kwan believes she has Yin eyes. She sees those who have died and now dwell in the World of Yin..." Now in her mid-30s, Olivia, a photographer, is still seeking a meaningful life. The climax of the story comes when she and her estranged husband Simeon, a writer, go to China on assignment with Kwan as the interpreter. In the village in which she grew up, Kwan returns to the world of Yin, her mission completed. Olivia finally learns what Kwan was trying to show her: "If people we love die, then they are lost only to our ordinary senses. If we remember, we can find them anytime with our hundred secret senses." The meshing of the contemporary story of Olivia and the tales Kwan tells of her past life in late-19th century China may confuse some readers. Although this story is different from Tan's previous novels because of the supernatural twist, YAs will find some familiar elements.?Carol Clark, R. E. Lee High School, Springfield, VA
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars You'll remember every epic thread. Aug. 28 2012
By Carolyn TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Mass Market Paperback
We've heard of Amy Tan with great respect but I was unsure "The Joy Luck Club" was for me. A fan of mystique, "The Hundred Secret Senses" was a title that drew me. I expected Amy's work to be very good ~ she plays keyboard in a band with Stephen King for Pete's sake. The journey I discovered is so epic and multifaceted, I doubt a blockbuster film could do it justice. The numerous storylines are dynamic and none you will forget.

'Olivia' learns of her Dad's previous family. They locate the 18 year-old and sponsor 'Kwan' from China. Gregarious, not shy for a second, she's thrilled with a sister in particular, upon whom she lavishes love. Olivia finds this awkward from a stranger, whose shaky English embarrasses her around school friends. There are two young brothers, mentioned less than her Mom. Olivia's treatment of Kwan is poor. I understand being bombarded with a nearly-grown girl in the family but many of us accept relatives who were jerks. Kwan was affectionate and loyal all along, even in the face of rudeness, so that element bothered me.

One story centers on Olivia's husband 'Simon', bizarre circumstances with a university girlfriend. It is a fierce memory that affects their relationship. Kwan convinces them to accompany her to China, her first time in three decades. Events there reach a whole other magnitude. The novel wasn't very metaphysical until that point. There we get into ghosts, body-switching, and a great deal of reincarnation. While Olivia was growing up, Kwan shared her room. She chattered nightly about sharply remembered past lives and Olivia inadvertently found herself learning Chinese. On the trip back to her home town, those story snippets come together with an impact that is impossible to doubt.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beyond the Five Sense Dec 7 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
The world is full of many superstitions. Some people believe that breaking a mirror leads to seven years of bad luck. If a black cat crosses your path, then you'll have bad luck. Putting a hat on the bed can bring bad luck. And oh yea, standing chopsticks in a rice bowl is a sign of death. Of course, I don't believe any of these things, as they have no sound basis for belief. Yet, many people hold these things to be true, for whatever reason. One of the most widespread beliefs that people have is that the spirits of the dead survive in a spirit world. Not only do they reside there, but they can also take trips to our world, the world of the living. Different lands have different concepts of this idea. Isn't it odd though, that only some people get to see these ghosts?

Amy Tan's book, The Hundred Secret Senses, is a tale about the living, the dead, and the connections they share. The main character is a woman named Olivia. When she is nearly four years old, her life takes a turn; she loses one family member, but learns that she has another that lives across the world. Well, sort of. She learns that her father had a daughter before he married her mother, and that she lives in China. Two years later, her half-sister, Kwan, arrives in America and begins to live with her. Olivia doesn't quite like that idea. Why? "I would have preferred a new turtle or even a doll, not someone who would compete for my mother's already divided attention and force me to share the meager souvenirs of her love," she says. Yet, she eventually realizes that her fear was unnecessary, as she and Kwan are the ones that become close, almost like mother and daughter. They become so intimate that Kwan decides to tell Olivia a secret: she can see dead people, because she has "yin eyes.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Hundred Secret Senses is yet another Amy Tan novel that focuses on the cross cultural strains felt by Chinese Americans. In this novel, Olivia, a daughter of a white American mother and a Chinese father grows up in California as an All-American girl. When Olivia's father dies, a half sister, Kwan is brought from China to share Olvia's bedroom and life. Kwan, is steeped in the rich traditional Chinese pantheon of ghosts and yin people--this she freely shares with a relustant Olivia. All throughout young Olivia's relationship with Kwan, Chinese ghosts wander, until Olivia has learned Chinese and much about traditional Chinese life and culture. Amy Tan is very clever in forming Olivia's character, she works from the inside and outside through Kwan's observations.When Olvia leaves for college and hopefully a new life, she finds Simon Bishop. Simon is also of mixed Chinese heritage and also is haunted by the modern ghost of a former girl friend killed in a skiing accident. Olivia pursues Simon and the couple marries, however the partner's ghosts haunt the marriage, and as the story begins, Olivia and Simon are seeking a divorce. It is so interesting to see how Amy Tan intertwines Chinese ghosts into an essential American story of lost love. She allows Kwan to cross the barriers of both cultures and also Olivia's mind to show that ghosts are real and are effect everyone. Deep emotions and feelings are revealed in her books and that is one of reasons they are so compelling. Although this is the third novel about Chinese Americans and their cross cultural lives, it is really about anyone's life, as Amy Tan writes about real emotions and feelings.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars The 100 Secret Senses
This is a mystical Chinese story that tells the life of Olivia Laguni. When Olivia was a young child, her half-sister, Kwan, arrived from China to stay with her family. Read more
Published on June 26 2004 by smartnurse123
5.0 out of 5 stars Traveling Between Two Worlds
Once again, Amy Tan has managed to blow my mind. I have read "The Bonesetter's Daughter" and was deeply impressed by how well Tan can weave a multi-dimentional story... Read more
Published on June 16 2004 by Fitzgerald Fan
3.0 out of 5 stars Write by Number?
First off, I'd like to assert that Amy Tan is an incredibly successful writer, whose books sell in the millions, and NOBODY can take that away from her. Read more
Published on April 22 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars My Favorite Book Ever
I just love this book. Amy Tan is a genius because she has the ability to write about people and the situations they experience in such a real, candid, and yet witty way. Read more
Published on April 11 2004 by A. Dobry
5.0 out of 5 stars An Amazing Discovery
A truly magical book, it will open your mind as well as your heart.
Published on March 23 2004 by Silinator
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Good
I read this book a few years ago now. I actually picked it up as a "Rock Bottom Remainder" at the local supermarket. I had already read Joy Luck Club. Read more
Published on Feb. 18 2004 by James Saunders
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing....
Amy Tan's "The Joy Luck Club" and "The Kitchen God's Wife" are two wonderful, wonderful novels -- I stayed up late into the night reading both of them, and... Read more
Published on Feb. 4 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars Too bad so many reviewers think they are actual critics...
It's really too bad so many reviewers think they are actual critics, as if critics ever knew trash from treasure. Read more
Published on Nov. 30 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating story that will keep you reading
I loved this book because it made me want to solve the mystery of Kwan's yin eyes and how it affects her half sister Olivia. Read more
Published on Nov. 8 2003 by Elizabeth
4.0 out of 5 stars Two sisters - one Chinese, one American
Once again exploring the dynamics of family and the clash of Chinese and American culture, Tan introduces two sisters, Olivia, a quintessential Californian and Kwan, who grew up in... Read more
Published on Oct. 29 2003 by Lynn Harnett
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