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The Kitchen God's Wife [Paperback]

Amy Tan
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (117 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 26 2006

Winnie and Helen have kept each other's worst secrets for more than fifty years. Now, because she believes she is dying, Helen wants to expose everything. And Winnie angrily determines that she must be the one to tell her daughter, Pearl, about the past—including the terible truth even Helen does not know. And so begins Winnie's story of her life on a small island outside Shanghai in the 1920s, and other places in China during World War II, and traces the happy and desperate events tha led to Winnie's coming to America in 1949.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Tan can relax. If The Joy Luck Club was an astonishing literary debut, The Kitchen God's Wife is a triumph, a solid indication of a mature talent for magically involving storytelling, beguiling use of language and deeply textured and nuanced character development. And while this second novel is again a story that a Chinese mother tells her daughter, it surpasses its predecessor as a fully integrated and developed narrative, immensely readable, perceptive, humorous, poignant and wise. Pearl Louie Brandt deplores her mother Winnie's captious criticism and cranky bossiness, her myriad superstitious rituals to ward off bad luck, and her fearful, negative outlook, which has created an emotional abyss between them. Dreading her mother's reaction, Pearl has kept secret the fact that she is suffering from MS. But as she learns during the course of the narrative, Winnie herself has concealed some astonishing facts about her early life in China, abetted by her friend and fellow emigree Helen Kwong. The story Winnie unfolds to Pearl is a series of secrets, each in turn giving way to yet another surprising revelation. Winnie's understated account--during which she goes from a young woman "full of innocence and hope and dreams" through marriage to a sadistic bully, the loss of three babies, and the horror and privations of the Japanese war on China--is compelling and heartrending. As Winnie gains insights into the motivations for other peoples' actions, she herself grows strong enough to conceal her past while building a new life in America, never admitting her deadly hidden fears. Integrated into this mesmerizing story is a view of prewar and wartime China--both the living conditions and the mind-set. Tan draws a vivid picture of the male-dominated culture, the chasm between different classes of society, and the profusion of rules for maintaining respect and dignity. But the novel's immediacy resides in its depiction of human nature, exposing foibles and frailties, dreams and hopes, universal to us all. Major ad/promo; Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club main selections; first serial to Grand Street, Lear's, McCalls and San Francisco Focus; paperback sale to Fawcett/Ivy; author tour.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

YA-- Fans of Tan's Joy Luck Club (Putnam, 1989) will love her powerful second novel. Here she creates an absorbing story about the lives of a Chinese mother and her adult American-born daughter. Pressured to reveal to the young woman her secret past in war-torn China in the 1940s, Winnie weaves an unbelievable account of a childhood of loneliness and abandonment and a young adulthood marred by a nightmarish arranged marriage. Winnie survives her many ordeals because of the friendship and strength of her female friends, the love of her second husband, and her own steadfast courage and endurance. At the conclusion, her secrets are uncovered and she shares a trust/love relationship with her daughter, Pearl, that was missing from both their lives. Some YAs may find the beginning a bit slow, but this beautifully written, heartrending, sometimes violent story with strong characterzation will captivate their interest to the very last page. --Nancy Bard, Thomas Jefferson Sci-Tech, Fairfax County, VA
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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First Sentence
Whenever my mother talks to me, she begins the conversation as if we were already in the middle of an argument. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars July 7 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Very dis-jointed!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Won't be disappointed March 25 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
After trudging through several books that weren't worth reading- I finally found one that was... I enjoyed the story line, the mother-daughter relationship and learning about the Chinese culture.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic novel - my favorite by Amy Tan! Jan. 5 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I have really enjoyed all of Tan's novels, however this book I have not been able to set down. She uses a style of a master story teller often ending a section which you've had your breath heald through with a sentance like "and after that my luck changed for the worse..." Then you just have to keep reading to find out how it got even worse! I often found myself craving Dim Sum after reading her description of their meals. You get to know the people in the book so well it's like loosing touch with a friend when you finish.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Very moving and intriguing Dec 13 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I am a big fan of Amy Tan because she truly knows how to tell a story. Her style of writing captures you from the start of the book and keeps you on the edge of your seat because you always want to know what's going to happen next. I really enjoyed this book because it was moving to see the relationship between a mother and a child develop for the best by looking back and understanding the past, no matter how horrible it is. The life story of Winnie Louie in Shanhai and rural China is heart wrenching, and her stories want you to keep reading to find out how she gets away from her very abusive husband, Wen Fu. The characters of Old Aunt, New Aunt, Peanut, Wen Fu, Jimmy Louie, Pearl, Winnie, and Helen are all very well developed. You feel like you actually know the characters and can relate to them. One thing that Amy Tan never is is boring. She captures your attention and shows a vivid image of China during World War II. She makes you understand Chinese custums, why Chinese think and feel certain ways, and she makes you really know how the Chinese lived in fear of the Japanese during World War II. Tan has a great understanding of human nature and the relationship between mother and child.
It is heartbreaking and angering to read how Wen Fu treated Winnie, and you actually begin to believe that this really happened. I highly recommend this book! I also recommend the Joy Luck Club, Hundred Secret Senses, and I am now reading The Bonesetter's Daughter, which I also recommend.
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5.0 out of 5 stars SOO I CRY ON THE NEW.YORK SUBWAY Aug. 3 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
WOW. This is the 3rd time I have read this book, and I just start weeping. I work on Broadway, ( yes I am a performer)and this book is wonderful. I'm from the old country ( England) and I truly bloody well connect with all the people in her novels. I'm young; and Amy is me mentor. When I remember what I've gone through in me wee life, I remember charachters in her books that I can identify with ( JOY LUCK CLUB included) and then I feel I can "CARRY ON' Thanks ever soo much . You are a true genius, Cheers . A faithful and Loyal follower NATA$HA V.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't put it down! March 18 2003
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Amy Tan has done it again! She brings the reader into another world to explore the difference a generation can make between parent and child and how love can transcend the distance. I'm a finicky reader when it comes to "pop" fiction novels yet Ms. Tan never seems to violate the "suspension of disbelief" a book lover needs to make the story and characters real. A generous, spell binding work.
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2.0 out of 5 stars NOT AS GOOD AS "JOY LUCK". Feb. 11 2003
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
It starts great, but then it starts to linger off and it just doesn't have the same "hold" as "joy luck" did. I don't want the same story as "joy luck" but I wanted a little more interesting characters. And it seems the story is repeated constantly regarding the characters, "Wen Fu" and "Winnie Louie" their awful marriage. A little disappointing.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Amy Tan Scores Again with a Beautiful Tale! Nov. 16 2002
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Now that I've read 2 of Ms. Tan's novels (THE KITCHEN GOD'S WIFE and THE BONESETTER'S DAUGHTER) and seen the movie THE JOY LUCK CLUB, I can honestly identify her as one of my favorite authors. Her wonderful story-telling ability, believable characters and fascinating exploration of Chinese culture and history make her stories some of the best I've read in a long time.
The story begins when both Winnie and her daughter Pearl are put in a position whereby they both have to reveal their secrets to each other. The novel, however, is dominated by Winnie's autobiographical account of her life in China before Pearl was born.
Winnie Louie told a fascinating tale of her life - a tale which included a strong focus on Chinese culture and history from a very human perspective. She was a very strong individual who was able to survive and prevail through terrible hardships ...And she was still able to pass on a strongly feminist message about self-repect to her daughter despite the emotional and physical abuse inflicted upon her by her first husband in China.
This is such a powerful story dealing with the mother-daughter bond, friendship, loyalty, cultural differentiations, personal choices, courage and self-respect. The story left me with a lump in my throat - feeling sad, touched and uplifted all at the same time. I can't wait to read THE HUNDRED SECRET SENSES next!
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