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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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The Kitchen God's Wife + The Joy Luck Club
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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
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Because the Kitchen God King was not a misogynist. If you read the actual fairy tale there is no hint of abuse on the Kitchen God Queen. The Kitchen King never raped or beated the Kitchen Queen. If you see many illustrations of the Kitchen King and Kitchen Queen in Chinese literature, they are always together. And the Kitchen Queen is honored because she is the Kitchen King's wife. And the Kitchen King is honored because he is the Kitchen Queen's husband. So, Wen Fu doesn't even come close as a comparison to the Kitchen King! Other than that, the only good this novel can do is help strengthen feminist causes (although Tan does it in spite of Chinese culture). But, it won't help Asian causes at all.
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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 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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3.0 out of 5 stars Culturally illuminating Feb. 17 2002
Format:Mass Market Paperback
A well-written story that exposes the cultural hardships of life for women in 1930's and 40's China through the story of Winnie. Winnie has kept many secrets of her life from everyone she loves -- everyone except her friend Helen who now suddenly decides to tell these secrets to Winnie's adult daughter, Pearl. Faced with being exposed, Winnie sits Pearl down and tells her the truths of her life, her sufferings and hardships and misfortunes.
This was an interesting and well-written book, but my experience of it was interrupted by Tan's switching of narrators. Tan begins the novel with Pearl as narrator and then shortly into the book she switches to Winnie as narrator. We only hear her daughter's voice again at the end. So she sets the reader up for one voice but then she abandons that voice in favor of another. The other difficulty I had was that the further into the story I read, the more emotionally excruciating the experience of reading it became. There was nothing but misery everywhere for its characters. It was really more than both Winnie and I could take. Tan never lets up and by the end you just get tired of misfortune after misfortune after misfortune -- the story almost loses credibility because of it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Kitchen God's Wife finally got a divorce Jan. 1 2002
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Amy Tan is a great storyteller. But she is also great for three other reasons. First she is able to unravel a story from at least two points of view, here a mother and her daughter. Officially it is the story of the mother told to the daughter, but in fact it is the background and underground building of the daughter's personality as a Chinese American : the Chinese side of her self is the inheritance of her mother's experience. Second she deals with women in their liberation, not the liberation of the younger generation, but their liberation as the natural outcome of the hardships and subsequent liberation of their mothers. It is the struggle of the mothers for their freedom that gives freedom to their daughters. In that respect Amy Tan is one of the very best writers on the condition of women in the US. She is at least as good as the Afro-American women writers along that line. Third she is always able to connect the traditional Chinese side of her story, in China itself, with the war against the Japanese and the coming of the Communists, to the modern Chinese American culture. She does not exorcize the Communists, nor the Japanese, though she sounds partial with the Japanese as agressors, though their task was made easy bvy the rotten Kuomintang officials and army. On the other hand she is fair witrh the Communists and shows how they were able to use deep discontent to capture their own victory. It is the case here with women and feudal marriages. The Communists are able to help the women who want to escape this fate knowing that it will start a real revolution in the country and that most women will follow suit. Read more ›
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Most recent customer reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
Very dis-jointed!
Published 2 months ago by Joan Brisbourne
4.0 out of 5 stars Won't be disappointed
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... Read more
Published on March 24 2004 by "blbarney"
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic novel - my favorite by Amy Tan!
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... Read more
Published on Jan. 5 2004 by SeattleStamper
5.0 out of 5 stars SOO I CRY ON THE NEW.YORK SUBWAY
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. Read more
Published on Aug. 2 2003 by NV
5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't put it down!
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... Read more
Published on March 18 2003
2.0 out of 5 stars NOT AS GOOD AS "JOY LUCK".
It starts great, but then it starts to linger off and it just doesn't have the same "hold" as "joy luck" did. Read more
Published on Feb. 11 2003
4.0 out of 5 stars A story for the heart
No mattter how much you love your mother, this will help you to appreciate her more. my family is not chinese, nor are we immigrants, however, after reading this book, I learned to... Read more
Published on Sept. 25 2002 by "amigadeestrella"
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful novel with rich characters
I can't compare "The Kitchen God's Wife" to any other Amy Tan's novels since I haven't read any besides this one. Read more
Published on Aug. 7 2002 by Emily
2.0 out of 5 stars Don't bother
If you like slow, painfully detailed stories told by whiny, negative characters, you'll love this book. Otherwise, don't bother. Read more
Published on July 5 2002 by M. L. Jones
5.0 out of 5 stars the most moving book by Tan
I have read all of Amy Tan's work and this is by far the most original, moving story she has ever written. Read more
Published on June 19 2002 by momazon
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