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.