The Hundred Secret Senses Mass Market Paperback – Oct 30 1996
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From Publishers Weekly
Tan's novel of the conflicts between two very different Chinese American sisters spent 12 weeks on PW's bestseller list.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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
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 ›
'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.
HoweverÒThe Hundred Secret SensesÓ is not exactly another mother-daughter theme, but a shifti to the sisterhood motif. It deals with cultural dislocation between China and America in the wonderfully-drawn character of Kwan and her past life during the fascinating and brutal time of the TÕai PÕing rebellion in the 1850Õs in China. One of the strengths of this book is the description of southern China and the emergence of the Heavenly King, who, with his God worshippers and foreign mercenaries, warred for more than a decade against the entire Manchu Dynasty.
In ÒThe Hundred Secret Senses,Ó Amy Tan tries her hand at magical realism, a type of story where two world views meet, the pragmatic, and the mystical. I was reminded of ÒMutant Message from Down Under,Ó ÒThe Celestine ProphecyÓ and the Don Juan series of books written by Carlos Casteneda. In each of these stories, there is a teacher who by patience and long and hard work passes on knowledge of a separate reality, a world which is not knit together by consensus reality.
Consensus reality is when you are walking on a steep mountain ledge and lose your footing, what will happen? You will fall because everyone believes that will happen. In the separate reality, you will not necessarily fall. Just as in the separate reality of Kwan, Libby-ah is a reincarnation of Miss Nelly Banner and Simon was Liban. Our left-brained logic doesnÕt work.
Each magical realism story has a student who embarks upon a journey.Read more ›
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
Once again, Amy Tan has managed to blow my mind. I have read "The Bonesetter's Daughter" and was deeply impressed by how well Tan can weave a multi-dimentional story... Read morePublished on June 16 2004 by Fitzgerald Fan
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
I read this book a few years ago now. I actually picked it up as a "Rock Bottom Remainder" at the local supermarket. I had already read Joy Luck Club. Read morePublished on Feb. 17 2004 by James Saunders
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