The Hundred Secret Senses Is An Exultant Novel About China And America, Love And Loyalty, The Identities We Invent And The True Selves We Discover Along The Way Olivia Laguni Is Half Chinese, But Typically American In Her Uneasiness With Her Patchwork Family And No One In Olivia S Family Is Embarrassing To Her Than Her Half Sister, Kwan Li For Kwan Speaks Mangled English, Is Cheerfully Deaf To Olivia S Sarcasm, And Sees The Dead With Her Yin Eyes Even As Olivia Details The Particulars Of Her Decades Long Grudge Against Her Sister Who, Among Other Things, Is A Source Of Infuriatingly Good Advice , Kwan Li Is Telling Her Own Story, One That Sweeps Us Into The Splendor, Squalor, And Violence Of Manchu China And Out Of The Friction Between Her Narrators, Amy Tan Creates A Work That Illuminates Both The Present And The Past Sweetly, Sadly, Hilariously, With Searing And Vivid Prose I would have given this five stars but for a few things that annoyed me Simon s sterility didn t ring true and Kwan s constant good humor was a bit grating.Otherwise very, very entertaining Let me start off by saying that I LOVE Kwan Her voice and self assurance makes her cool, Oh Libby ah I tell you secret Promise not tell And then later in the book she becomes even cooler A fifty year old lady crawling through caves I can picture her saying, We hakka strong Don t worry me Libby ah I be right back I think a movie would be great It has suspense, mystery, romance, death, ghosts Not to mention the amazing visuals detailed in the story.My only criticism is that Olivia s character annoyed me several times Especially when she is in China They don t have electricity They don t have a bathroom inside the house I have to eat that They don t have something normal prepared for me I can eat That kind of thing It s like she s saying, This stuff might be good enough for you Chinese people, but you guys are crazy I understand that she learns from her China trip, and she grows out of her shell, but I feel like she should have known anyway After all, she s been hearing Kwan s stories of China almost all her life You think she would have learned by now that they don t have much to American standards Also, her way of thinking is always about her, her, her I don t think she stops once to think outside herself, what it must have been like for Kwan when she lived there, or what it must be like for her family that still lived there.But getting over that fact, the story really is quite marvelous. . It s become a tradition for me to read Amy Tan s books when flying My recent trip to Las Vegas was no exception, since at the last minute, I pulled down Amy Tan s The Hundred Secret Senses the Kindle version and dived into it as soon as I could turn my electronic devices back on.The book starts, 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 There are ghosts a plenty in this book Two or three in particular are fundamental to the story line, and the stories of their lives, deaths, and in some cases reincarnations are woven seamlessly into the narrative, as Kwan shifts from her accented English into Chinese to tell her sister Olivia the stories Kwan spends time in a mental institution for her troubles To Kwan, the ghosts are real Olivia, born and raised in America, and not part of the culture Kwan is speaking from, is skeptical And yet, against her will, over decades of listening to her sister, Olivia has learned the stories, internalized them, and become haunted by some of them herself, as well as taking on a few new ones.The ghosts are the reason Kwan is so desperate to patch Olivia s failed marriage back together The ghosts and their story are the reason Olivia, Simon Olivia s ex husband and Kwan go to China But a ghost can t change anything about its life Ghosts are dead It s for the living, the dying, and the newly born who ultimately bring the story to resolution.Tan evokes both these women Olivia and Kwan so thoroughly you feel as though you know them, that you have known them since you were a child Through the longstanding argument and story telling between them, she evokes the ghosts as well, and their stories, and their passions, their very lives that were, to the point that they too are characters in the present story.If it sounds disjoint like I m still wrapping my head around this book, digesting it, trying to figure out how Tan did what she did, and why that s because I am There s a lot of story there Tan s books are thick, dense with plot and rich with characters, and The Hundred Secret Senses is no exception Totally immersive, and I found myself wishing my flight had lasted longer than the two hours or so it actually did, so I could get through of it As it was, I was up until 2 00am reading it in the middle of my vacation It s that good Read it Enjoy it. Pablo Picasso also had his periods African, Blue, Cubism, Modern, Rose and Analytic cubism.And so have I Have periods Russian, Jewish, American, Middle East, African, you name it.One of my favorites is Amy Tan Amy Tan Period This one is lasting a few years now and most of her books have a central theme mothers and daughters Amy Tan did not have a good relationship with her mother, or grandmother, for that matter It could have been different if she had children of her own to really understood how mothers minds worked and find some closure for herself So with this opinion in mind, I indulge in her books And I always find what I am expecting rich, informative, compassionate tales on Chinese culture, the family relationships, the cultural modus operandi, and the endearing characters filling up the spaces in the stories Of course, there are always subtle cat scratching and kitty yowling like alley cats on garbage night, raging throughout her tale, ripping any notion of womanly bonding apart The women seldom love or even like each other, but there is always something strong keeping them connected It becomes the mainstay of all her books.Five year old American born, Olivia Lee suddenly meets her Chinese half sister, K wan Li, from the Chanmian village in the Thistle mountains, China She brings her dreams, ghosts, myths and messages with her, bombarding Olivia in her sleep A love hate relationship develops over a period of thirty years, with K wan, who calls a spade a spade in any situation, including Olivia s separation from her husband, Simon Kwan becomes larger than life, interfering in everything Olivia does Love and bonding is mainly one sided with Olivia always trying to keep a physical, as well as emotional distance between herself and K wan She becomes used to K wan not minding her own business, keeping on top of practically every move Olivia makes However, K wan sees what Olivia doesn t and she s patient with her little sister During a visit to China, K wan opens up about her personal feelings for the first time feelings that Olivia never cared much about view spoilerBefore I left for America, I raised three birds, not just one, so I could make three wishes at the top of the peak of the mountain where their village is located I told myself, If these three wishes come true, my life is complete, I can die happy My first wish to have a sister I could love with all my heart, only that, and I would ask nothing from her My second wish to return to China with my sister My third wish Kwan s voice now quavers for Big Ma to see this and say she was sorry she sent me away This is the first time Kwan s ever shown me how deeply she can resent someone who s treated her wrong I opened the cage, she continues, and let my three birds go free She flings out her hand in demonstration But one of them beat its wings uselessly, drifting in half circles, before it fell like a stone all the way to the bottom Now you see, two of my wishes have already happened I have you, and together we are in China Last night I realized my third wish would never come true Big Ma will never tell me she is sorry She holds up the cage with the owl But now I have a beautiful cat eagle that can carry with him my new wish When he flies away, all my sadness will go with him Then both of us will be freehide spoiler I read The Joy Luck Club years ago after watching the movie , and now I m kicking myself that I ve let years and years pass before picking up her other novels I could ve been treasuring these books all along, but maybe this is a blessing in disguise, because Amy Tan s novels require a certain type of womanly maturity to fully appreciate her stories that can only come with age and experience In fact, I think I should re read TJLC because there are probably lots of subtle things that went right over my head Ahh, the joys of being a na ve teenager.Anyhoo, The Hundred Secret Senses is told from the POV of a half Chinese American woman named Olivia, who lives in CA, is estranged from her husband, has very little appreciation for her older half sister from China, and goes on a trip with the two of them back to her sister s hometown of Changmian.I overly simplified the book, but basically it s a story about a woman at a crossroads in her life who is teeming on the edge of bitterness and ingratitude, but is also in self denial about this She s actively pretending that she has no problem with divorcing her husband after 17 years of marriage, and is choosing not to open up to her loving and nurturing sister Kwan, despite the fact that Kwan has been like a warm and affectionate mother to her than her own biological mother has ever been.I gave Amy Tan an extra star just for writing the character Kwan the way she did Kwan s warmth and positivity, her never ending love and forgiveness toward her family, coupled with her firm belief in herself and humble confidence is awe inspiring My heart ached as I stayed up late last night, flipping through page after page of Kwan s story, past life and present I would give almost anything to have a sister like her, or just a relative like her She s the symbol of what has been missing in my life since I was born, so it was a little difficult to overlook Olivia s ingratitude and immaturity.Speaking of immaturity, it was interesting to me that Olivia reminded me of a woman who would have been a teenager college student in the 80 s, rather than during the Vietnam era I honestly have no idea why, maybe she just comes across as a younger soul for some reason, or maybe it s because she s 12 years younger than Kwan, so the years apart put a spotlight on Olivia s tendency to act like a stereotypical bratty sibling.That s not to say I didn t like Olivia In fact, a lot of the choked back tears I held came from reading about her deep insecurity and fears of losing her husband to a woman she can t even compete with That s so unfair, but it s the way the cookie crumbles sometimes It s just sad that almost two decades passed before Olivia was able to begin dealing with her feelings, and the ending summed that up in a realistic way, rather than giving it the typical Hollywood ending that cheapens otherwise good stories.And that s one of the reasons I know how much Amy Tan loves the stories she creates, because she gives not only her characters respect, but her readers as well She gives her characters the space they need to sort through grief, sadness, love, etc., rather than just wrapping everything up in a neat little bow and handing it to readers viewers like so many other books and movies do.It always gives me a crazy case of the angries when they do that.Speaking of wrapping up, I think I ll do just that with a toast to Amy Tan, one of my new favorite authors.Cheers Here s my blog It s the same basic Amy Tan plot The details have changed, but the essence of the story is exactly the same as every other Tan book I ve read In this case, though, not only does the narrator have mommy issues, she also has older sister from China issues.Basically, I got bored I ve read most of Tan s novels and have realized that she has a template She found a formula that worked in The Joy Luck Club and hasn t really changed it since then.1 Female main character.2 She s caught between two worlds China and America and two or generations As a result, she doesn t communicate well with others She s aloof, she comes across as cold, and she s constricted by guilt.3 This inability to communicate affects all of her relationships Various aspects of her life fall apart around her e.g., loses her job, gets divorced, becomes alienated from her family.4 She finds some level of understanding and compassion.5 Hug We re done.This method of novel writing is lazy and unfulfilling Tan found what worked for her readers and hasn t grown as a writer or storyteller. The Hundred Secret Senses is now one of my favorite Amy Tan novels, rivaled only by The Bonesetter s Daughter Yes, I love The Joy Luck Club, The Kitchen God s Wife and Saving Fish From Drowning I love any Tan story I come across but The Hundred Secret Senses along with TBD really stand out Olivia, the narrator, is the American born daughter of a Chinese man and an American woman When her father is on his deathbed, he reveals to his wife that he left behind a daughter in China, and asks her to retrieve the daughter Enter Kwan, Olivia s older half sister who believes that she has yin eyes and can see and speak to ghosts.Olivia struggles her whole life to ignore and dismiss Kwan s superstitions until her marriage is crumbling and she, her estranged husband and her sister find themselves on a trip to China together The ending is extremely poignant without being cheesy or unrealistic Tan plumbs the depths of issues like life and death, reincarnation, history, soul ties, relationships and culture in this story, and I ate it up. So I like this book What I like about it is how sweet Kwan is, but in just about All the Books there is a straight as in serious character who refuses to believe in ghosty things.Which is a bit irritating when you have proof such things exist.Best thing about this book is the concept that these people cared for each other so much they kept being born again just to be with these folks it s a nice way to look at death, really Friendly You loved this guy in this life so he s going to be reborn just to be with you all over again It was nice how Olivia learned to be open minded It was frustrating having the story be in mostly her perspective because I wanted to shake her and tell her to stop being so insecure, dang it And that love isn t perfect or without problems Just because you re not happy all the time with the person you love, doesn t mean it s not love Also, reading this book again made me get a bit teary in places It really is a sweet book.