The Hundred Secret Senses Paperback – Jun 30 1998
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From Publishers Weekly
Again grounding her novel in family and the workings of fate, Tan (The Kitchen God's Wife) spins the tale of two sisters, two cultures, and several acts of betrayal. Kwan, who came to San Francisco from China when she was 18, remains culturally disjointed, a good-natured, superstitious peasant with a fierce belief that she has "yin eyes," which enable her to see ghosts. Kwan's younger half-sister Olivia (or Libby-ah, as Kwan calls her) is supremely annoyed by Kwan's habit of conversing with spirits and treats her with disdain. Despite herself, however, Libby is fascinated by the stories Kwan tells of her past lives, during one of which, in the late 1800s, she claims to have befriended an American missionary who was in love with an evil general. Kwan relates this story in installments that alternate with Libby's narration, which stresses her impatience with Kwan's clinging presence. But Kwan's devotion never cools: "She turns all my betrayals into love that needs to be betrayed," Libby muses. When circumstances take Kwan, Libby and Libby's estranged husband, Simon, back to Kwan's native village in China on a magazine assignment, the stories Kwan tells?of magic, violence, love and fate?begin to assume poignant?and dangerous?relevance. In Kwan, Tan has created a character with a strong, indelible voice, whose (often hilarious) pidgin English defines her whole personality. Needy, petulant, skeptical Libby is not as interesting; though she must act as Kwan's foil, demonstrating the dichotomy between imagination and reality, she is less credible and compelling, especially when she undergoes a near-spiritual conversion in the novel's denouement. Indeed, some readers may feel that the ending is less than satisfactory, but no one will deny the pleasure of Tan's seductive prose and the skill with which she unfolds the many-layered narrative. Major ad/promo; BOMC and QPB main selections; author tour.
Copyright 1995 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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Top Customer Reviews
'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.
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.Read more ›
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.
Most recent customer reviews
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 morePublished on June 26 2004 by smartnurse123
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 morePublished on April 22 2004
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 morePublished on April 11 2004 by A. Dobry
A truly magical book, it will open your mind as well as your heart.Published on March 23 2004 by Silinator
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 morePublished on Feb. 4 2004
It's really too bad so many reviewers think they are actual critics, as if critics ever knew trash from treasure. Read morePublished on Nov. 30 2003