Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Hundred Secret Senses by Amy Tan

The Hundred Secret Sense by Amy Tan
Published December 2010 by Penguin Group
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for this review

Publisher's Summary:

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.

My Thoughts:
Years ago, after seeing the movie adaptation, I read Tan's The Joy Luck Club and enjoyed it a lot. I liked the way Tan blended her own American upbringing with her Chinese heritage but for some reason I never picked up another one of her books.  When I was approached about reviewing The Hundred Secret Senses I didn't hesitate to say "yes." And then it sat on my shelf ... for months.

It was a slow start for me but Tan soon wrapped me up in the story largely because of the relationship between Olivia (or as Kwan called her "Libby-ah). Olivia has grown up her whole life embarrassed and irritated by Kwan but Kwan never seems to notice, her love never seems to flag. Kwan's stories about past lives eventually reveal the reason for this but are they just stories or do Olivia and Kwan have ties from the past that can't be broken? Like Olivia, I'm willing to go along for the ride because it's such an interesting ride, particularly once the sisters travel to China. 


  1. I never read any of Tan's books, from some reason they never piqued my interest however the more reviews I read about them, the more interesting they sound.


  2. I also really enjoyed the Joy Luck Club movie but have never picked up one of her books. Looks like I need to get on that. Thanks :)

  3. I also reviewed this one, but read it many years ago as well. I can't say it was my favorite Tan; I think that honor goes to The Kitchen God's Wife, but it was a really interesting, and sort of sad story. Like you, I also enjoyed the parts when the sister went to China. Nice review on this one today!

  4. It's been years since I read this. And suddenly it is everywhere again! They must have re-released it. This is my mother's favorite Tan book. I am partial to The Kitchen God's Wife and The Joy Luck Club, but I did like this one too. I am glad you enjoyed!

  5. I grabbed this one at a library sale quite a few years ago. I loved her other books so I don't know why I haven't read this one yet, but after your review I'm more aware of it sitting on my shelves!!

  6. I've seen The Joy Luck Club but have never read any of Tan's novels. This does sound interesting. Don't you hate when you let a review copy sit and it turns out to be excellent?

  7. I haven't read an Amy Tan book yet and I need to change that. The Joy Luck Club is on my wishlist so I hope to pick that soon.

  8. I don't think any of her other novels top The Joy Luck Club. I've read that one at least three times (twice in college). I read this one many years ago, so I don't remember anything about it, other than that I thought it was pretty good.