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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 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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5.0 out of 5 stars Traveling Between Two Worlds June 16 2004
Format:School & Library Binding
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..."The Hundred Secret Senses" is no different.
The main character is Olivia. She is likeable but extremely self-absorbed. Her half sister Kwan is more than just an annoyance in Olivia's life, but is the one who ultimately shows her what life is about; what's truly important.
The book deals with reincarnation and zigzags between the past life that Kwan recalls in China and her present one in the U.S. This may sound hokey to some who have not read the book but it is done in a wonderful way that makes you want to suspend disbelief as a reader and wonder "what if?"
The text is wonderfully fast moving and the dialect she uses for Kwan is absolutely amusing and touching at the same time (her poor English is absolutely adorable and you can almost hear her talking when you read the book.)
All in all, it is a coming of age story for a very late bloomer (Olivia), who up until now, has forgotten to turn around and notice the rest of the world.
If you've never read Amy Tan, you don't know what you are missing. Her ability to tell a complex story with ease is unparalleled.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Very Good Feb. 17 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
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. Once I started reading, I enjoyed The Hundred Secret Senses, and had such a difficult time putting it down, that I returned to the supermarket the next day to buy the remaining five copies, which I gave to friends. I normally read Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Faulkner, Steinbeck, etc. (aka Dead White Men). So, in an effort to expose myself to both contemporary fiction and fiction from a woman's voice, I first read Joy Luck Club. I am currently reading The Bonesetter's Daughter. I am just about halfway through and enjoying it very much. I am especially impressed with Tan's ability to take me from the Present Tense to Flashbacks. I often don't even realize that I've read several pages of flashback until she brings me smoothly back to the present. Reading Tan's books, for me, is a free trip through space & time, seeing other cultures, other times. As I said, I read this book a long time ago, so I cannot relate any specifics with authority.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating story that will keep you reading Nov. 8 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
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. Olivia's father is Chinese and her mother is American, and her Chinese father has a full-blooded Chinese daughter named Kwan who lives in Changmian, China. Changmian is a city of ill reputation because years earlier there was a massacre of the villagers and Christian missionaries that lived there.
Kwan moves to America to live with Olivia and her family, and Olivia hates her with a passion. Olivia's mother does not pay much attention to Olivia as a child, so Kwan takes over as her mother figure. Olivia plays mean jokes on Kwan because she is embarrassed of her; all of her friends say that Kwan is retarded. Olivia soon learns how to speak Chinese with Kwan, and Kwan reveals to Olivia that she can see people in the world of Yin, which basically means she sees ghosts. Olivia gets Kwan sent to the mental hospital, but Kwan holds no hard feelings towards Olivia. She loves Olivia dearly, and you find out why towards the last hundred pages of the book.
It is a great book full of mystery, and some parts will send chills down your spine. I highly recommend it!
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars You'll remember every epic thread.
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. Read more
Published on Aug. 28 2012 by Carolyn
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
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
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
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
4.0 out of 5 stars Kwan's yin eyes....
THE HUNDRED SECRET SENSES by Amy Tan uses a similar pattern which her previous books seem to follow, in which she starts the story in... Read more
Published on Oct. 28 2003 by Ratmammy
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