5.0 out of 5 stars Amy Tan Scores Again with a Beautiful Tale!
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...
Published on Nov. 16 2002
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Tan shouldn't have paralleled her book to the Kitchen Gods.
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...
Published on Feb. 7 2002 by firstname.lastname@example.org
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Tan shouldn't have paralleled her book to the Kitchen Gods.,
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.
4.0 out of 5 stars Very moving and intriguing,
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.
5.0 out of 5 stars Amy Tan Scores Again with a Beautiful Tale!,
By A Customer
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!
3.0 out of 5 stars Culturally illuminating,
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.
5.0 out of 5 stars The Kitchen God's Wife finally got a divorce,
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. The divide then appears for what it is : a cultural divide, the free choice between serving one's society and serving one's interest, a communal - if not communistic - choice on one side and a personal - if not individualistic - choice on the other side. This leads to a very optimistic note at the end : the two sides are not opposed and can find a new unity, especially now that the kitchen God's wife has finally divorced her godly husband, reducing him to a hellish destiny and enhancing herself into a totally optimistic future for both men and women, for society, through equality.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU
4.0 out of 5 stars Poor communication is the greatest tragedy,
I enjoyed reading Tan's "The Kitchen God's Wife." Although I am not too familiar with Chinese or even Chinese American culture, I was struck by the universal theme of how heartache wears people down, causing them to shield their feelings and strain even their most precious relationships rather than risk being emotionally open and connected to one another. The story revolves around a Chinese mother and her American born daughter, and the way they've retreated from this relationship to numb the suffering each has experienced...which is definitely the wrong antidote. The book unfolds the life story of Winnie, the mother, who grew up in China in the early 1900's and left for the United States sometime shortly after World War II. I don't like to think the harsh treatment she endured, especially as a child, could be true, although cruelty has never been limited to one time or place. At times it seemed the plot got a little convoluted or perhaps repetitious, but Tan is a skilled storyteller and manages to follow through to a credible ending. Her book makes me curious to know more about Chinese culture--to this end, I enjoyed the historical references and observations of customs as seen through the eyes of her various characters.
5.0 out of 5 stars Does Tan ever fail?,
I read the Joy Luck Club years ago, and to this day it is still one of my favorite books. Both novels were centered around a strained mother-daughter relationship. I started reading this novel because I thought it would have a ton of simalarities, The Kitchen God's Wife has some simalarities but not many.
The story is centered around Winnie. Winnie is from China, and now lives in California. She does not have a good relationship with Pearl, her daughter. Pearl has MS, and has not told her mother even though she has had the ailment for a few years. Pearl is struggling with how to eventually tell her mother, and how her mother will take the news. Pearl looks at her mother and does not understand her customs or her way of life. She only sees her mother as annoying but she stills loves her. Auntie Helen is related to Winnie. While the woman lived in China they made a pact not to tell anyone about certain aspects of their lives. They have kept each others secrets for decades, leading all the way back to the beginning of World War II. At that time Winnie was married to a monster named Wen Fu. Auntie Helen tells Winnie she is dying of a brain tumor, and can no longer keep their secrets. Winnie is now forced to tell her daughter all of her secrets, including the secret about Pearl's real father.
This story reads like a memoir. It's beautiful description and Tan's gift of developing characters makes everything seem so real. You feel for Winnie, and the difficult choices she had to make. Would she stick with tradion that belittled women in China, or would she find help through progressive ideas? Could she get away from her abusive husband who continually raped, and threatened to kill her? Could she find love, and self worth. All of these questions are asked, and answered in The Kitchen God's Wife. Amy Tan is a gifted writer, and each time I read a novel of hers I continue to love each character and story. Tan writes about the ties that bind all women together. Mother and daughters, sisters and friends. Women have something that binds us that can never be explained. Tan writes about mothers and daughters who have a strained relationship because of the unwillingness to understand one another. As daughters, we tend to forget that our mothers had a life before us. Through their storytelling we can understand the choices they made, and the hardships that our mothers encountered. Daughters can see a little of themselves, and their actions through their mothers. This is what Tan writes about, and this is why I love her novels so much.
3.0 out of 5 stars Pretty close to the 'Joy Luck Club' stories...,
I've had a hard time finishing this book, because Winnie's tragic life has been so alike to the stories of the mothers of the "Joy Luck Club because the basic settings of both books are an unresolved communication problem between an Asian American daughter and her Chinese mother. In this book, Pearl is afraid to tell Winnie about being, and Winnie is afraid to tell Pearl of her own secret - a bad marriage in China. "Auntie" Helen, Winnie's long time friend and foe, threatens both to reveal their secrets if they don't do that themselves until the Chinese New Year. In the next part of her book, Winnie narrates her long, "tragic" marriage to a man named Wen Fu back in China during WW2, which is supposed to be somehow connected to the Chinese myth of the Kitchen God's wife - which was a VERY good wife to a very bad man herself.
Winnie did not stir any sympathy from me. At first, being a very young and innocent girl, I can inderstand why Winnie does not run away. But after a while, it seems all Winnie wants to do is complain about Wen Fu and show to the whole world how bad he is. She can't understand why his friends don't realize who he really is - what she sometimes sees as him being mean to them, they see as a joke. Even when she does try to escape from him, it seems those tries are doomed from the start because she manages to choose the best ways to annoy Wen Fu and damage his pride.The story also seemed to repeat itself a few times (Wen /Fu is mean, Winnie tries to escape but can't), and none of the characters seemed to change much each time, except for maybe Wen Fu, who get meaner by the page, and turns into a less credible character.
We're also exposed to Winnie's vain and jealous side - in the way she treats Helen... Almost everything Helen does is bad or wrong - from Winnie's high class point of view, of course. Never mind that Helen got the better, more understanding and more superior husband...
The only thing about this book which raised its mark from 1 start to 3 is Amy Tan's superb writing. Many people who liked the "Joy Luck Club" would probably like this book too, as long as they don't expect it too be THAT different. People who didn't like the latter would probably won't like this one either.
4.0 out of 5 stars Intruiging,
Amy Tan's The Kitchen God's Wife is an intruiging book... Pearl's Chinese mother, Winnie, is rooted in life, and in her past. The story tells of Winnie revealing her secretive, unknown past to her daughter who didn't seem to care ~ in an attempt to bring them closer together.
Tan's words are earthy, and have a way of wrapping themselves around her readers like whispering winds. Her prose continues to echo in my ears even weeks after I closed the last pages. The book was glued to my fingers for hours at a time, while I enjoyed the fact that I was learning more about Winnie's life, but at the same time dreading that the book was coming to an end. This book seems to have many oxymorons... but they tie in together in an endearing way.
Tan's talent is enviable: her words paint out scenes in her reader's minds, and she is able to bring out tastes, scents, touch from paper. And there is an explanation for it all: she is a magician with her words.
Maybe you have a misconception that the only people who enjoy Tan's books are Asians... but that's just what it is. A misconception. I am not Chinese, but I found Winnie's Chinese background to be very interesting, alluring, romantic, and mysterious. Anyone who is interested in reading a great book would enjoy this... it transcends all culture differences and it makes a person feel that in the end, we are all the same.
2.0 out of 5 stars melodramatic & unreal,
By A Customer
As a native Chinese, as I read it, I find the story could not have been written by a native Chinese cause she made blatant mistakes about languages, customs. if they were minor, i could overlook them.
I also get an impression that she really does not like Chinese male. in all her books i've read, there's no single positive Chinese male characters. they're either abusive or kind but wimpy fools. most of her heroines just passive accept their fate & do not fight. they just until some Chinese American to rescue them.
I also think she gave a wrong impression that Chinese family really do not cherish their daughters & like to marry them as concubines. Well, this was somewhat true that most Chinese did (a lot still do) prefer sons to daughters. But even in the old days when polygamy (multiple wives) was legal, _good_ families would rarely marry daughters as concubines except in extreme condition like poverty.
I'm also bothered by her political view. she seems more pro-Communist than Nationalists (KMT), from her description on KMT vs Communists. But this, in my opionion, does not add to the story at all cause it's irrelevant to the story she wants to tell.
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The Kitchen God's Wife by Amy Tan (Paperback - Sept. 26 2006)
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