Amy Tan's latest effort unfolds a series of family secrets that questions the connection between fate, beliefs, hopes, memory and imagination, and the natural gifts of our hundred secret senses. Years after her Chinese half-sister assails her with ghost stories set in the mysterious world of Yin, a young woman finds herself in China, looking for a way to reconcile the ghosts of her past with the dreams of her future. "The Hundred Secret Senses doesn't simply return to a world but burrows more deeply into it, following new trails to fresh revelations".--Newsweek.
Showing 1-2 of the 2 most recent reviews
1 . Very Imaginative!
Posted October 25, 2009 by -TTimXanh , SoCalAmy Tan's way of keeping the reader on their toes is enchanting! If you don't believe in past lives, you may change your mind with the way Tan skillfully emerges you into her characters so that you are pleasantly surprised. Great read!
2 . If not the first, in the top three books I have ever read
Posted November 28, 2006 by Chei-Mi Rose , MOTo try to explain this story, beyond what the summary says, would be doing a disservice to a wonderful book. It is a rare book that can reduce one to tears. It was not for sadness, but for the sheer beauty and poetry of the way Amy Tan chose to end this book. I cried through three readings and one audio version.
Hint: If you're coming to the end of the book, make sure no one is around. I got busted at work because of the tears.
It's sort of a Chinese Ghost Story, with a nod to reincanation. More than the sum of those two aspects is the way the characters, past and present, have their spirits intertwined. The past guides the present, yet the present is the key to righting the past.
I can think of how this book could be made more picture perfect, but I have a feeling, as Amy must have, that to write the perfect ending would have been to make things too trite and too down pat. She left plenty flaws in the human character to let the story be real, but she added enough magic to make this the most satisfying book I have ever read. I have not read her newer books yet, but the older ones pale in comparison.... and they were wonderful books, too.
October 15, 1995
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Excerpt from The Hundred Secret Senses by Amy Tan
THE GIRL WITH YIN EYES
My sister Kwan believes she has yin eyes. She sees those who have died and now dwell in the World of Yin, ghosts who leave the mists just to visit her kitchen on Balboa Street in San Francisco.
"Libby-ah," she'll say to me. "Guess who I see yesterday, you guess." And I don't have to guess that she's talking about someone dead.
Actually, Kwan is my half sister, but I'm not supposed to mention that publicly. That would be an insult, as if she deserved only fifty percent of the love from our family. But just to set the genetic record straight, Kwan and I share a father, only that. She was born in China. My brothers, Kevin and Tommy, and I were born in San Francisco after my father, Jack Yee, immigrated here and married our mother, Louise Kenfield.
Mom calls herself "American mixed grill, a bit of everything white, fatty, and fried." She was born in Moscow, Idaho, where she was a champion baton twirler and once won a county fair prize for growing a deformed potato that had the profile of Jimmy Durante. She told me she dreamed she'd one day grow up to be different -- thin, exotic, and noble like Luise Rainer, who won an Oscar playing O-lan in The Good Earth. When Mom moved to San Francisco and became a Kelly girl instead, she did the next-best thing. She married our father. Mom thinks that her marrying out of the Anglo race makes her a liberal. "When Jack and I met," she still tells people, "there were laws against mixed marriages. We broke the law for love." She neglects to mention that those laws didn't apply in California.
None of us, including my mom, met Kwan until she was eighteen. In fact, Mom didn't even know Kwan existed until shortly before my father died of renal failure. I was not quite four when he passed away. But I still remember moments with him. Falling down a curly slide into his arms. Dredging the wading pool for pennies he had tossed in. And the last day I saw him in the hospital, hearing what he said that scared me for years.
Kevin, who was five, was there. Tommy was just a baby, so he was in the waiting room with my mom's cousin, Betty Dupree -- we had to call her Aunt Betty -- who had moved out from Idaho as well. I was sitting on a sticky vinyl chair, eating a bowl of strawberry Jell-O cubes that my father had given me from his lunch tray. He was propped up in bed, breathing hard. Mom would cry one minute, then act cheerful. I tried to figure out what was wrong. The next thing I remember, my father was whispering and Mom leaned in close to listen. Her mouth opened wider and wider. Then her head turned sharply toward me, all twisted with horror. And I was terror-struck. How did he know? How did Daddy find out I flushed my turtles, Slowpoke and Fastpoke, down the toilet that morning? I had wanted to see what they looked like without their coats on, and ended up pulling off their heads.
"Your daughter?" I heard my mom say. "Bring her back?" And I was sure that he had just told her to bring me to the pound, which is what he did to our dog Buttons after she chewed up the sofa. What I recall after that is a jumble: the bowl of Jell-O crashing to the floor, Mom staring at a photo, Kevin grabbing it and laughing, then me seeing this tiny black-and-white snapshot of a skinny baby with patchy hair. At some point, I heard my mother shouting: "Olivia, don't argue, you have to leave now." And I was crying, "But I'll be good."
Soon after that, my mother announced: "Daddy's left us." She also told us she was going to bring Daddy's other little girl from China to live in our house. She didn't say she was sending me to the pound, but I still cried, believing everything was vaguely connected -- the headless turtles whirling down the toilet, my father abandoning us, the other girl who was coming soon to take my place. I was scared of Kwan before I ever met her.