Title: The Hundred Secret Senses
Author: Amy Tan
Publication Date: December 28, 2010
Paperback: 368 pages
Set in San Francisco and in a remote village of Southwestern China, Amy Tan’s The Hundred Secret Senses is a tale of American assumptions shaken by Chinese ghosts and broadened with hope. In 1962, five-year-old Olivia meets the half-sister she never knew existed, eighteen-year-old Kwan from China, who sees ghosts with her “yin eyes.” Decades later, Olivia describes her complicated relationship with her sister and her failing marriage, as Kwan reveals her story, sweeping the reader into the splendor and violence of mid-nineteenth century China. With her characteristic wisdom, grace, and humor, Tan conjures up a story of the inheritance of love, its secrets and senses, its illusions and truths.
The Hundred Secret Senses by Amy Tan is another beautiful example of how gifted a storyteller Amy Tan truly is. I have yet to dislike any book I have read by Tan, and while I do not believe The Hundred Secret Senses to be her best work, it ranks high on my list of Tan books to recommend. The story is told by Olivia, who at a young age lost her father and gained a stepsister from China from a previous marriage. While Kwan embraces her newly found younger sister and shares the Yin stories with her, Olivia does not share the sentiment. The reader is able to glimpse them growing up and then as adults, married with and without faults, and the beautiful ending, which is not to be missed. Tan expertly takes the reader into the lives of Olivia and Kwan, vividly detailing San Francisco and China, making the sisters as well as the Yin people quite real to the reader. The Hundred Secret Senses is filled with emotion, love, hope, despair, and above all, family. I adored the character of Kwan and oscillated between feeling sorry for Olivia and wishing she would stop to consider other people’s feelings more, yet the differences between the two sisters works out brilliantly in this story and I cannot imagine either character being portrayed any differently and having the same wonderful effect on the reader. Tan has crafted a beautiful, memorable, and heart-warming book. I would recommend The Hundred Secret Senses to any reader and to discussion groups.
Amy Tan is the author of The Joy Luck Club, The Kitchen God’s Wife, The Hundred Secret Senses, The Bonesetter’s Daughter, The Opposite of Fate, Saving Fish from Drowning, and two children’s books, The Moon Lady and The Chinese Siamese Cat, which has been adapted as Sagwa, a PBS series for children. Tan was also the co-producer and co-screenwriter of the film version of The Joy Luck Club, and her essays and stories have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies. Her work has been translated into more than twenty-five languages. Tan, who has a master’s degree in linguistics from San Jose University, has worked as a language specialist to programs serving children with developmental disabilities. She lives with her husband in San Francisco and New York.
I received a complimentary copy of The Hundred Secret Senses by Amy Tan from Penguin/Viking Publicity to review. Receiving a copy in no way reflected my review of aforementioned novel.