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The Kitchen God's Wife Paperback – September 21, 2006

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (September 21, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143038109
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143038108
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.3 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (223 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #89,105 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Tan can relax. If The Joy Luck Club was an astonishing literary debut, The Kitchen God's Wife is a triumph, a solid indication of a mature talent for magically involving storytelling, beguiling use of language and deeply textured and nuanced character development. And while this second novel is again a story that a Chinese mother tells her daughter, it surpasses its predecessor as a fully integrated and developed narrative, immensely readable, perceptive, humorous, poignant and wise. Pearl Louie Brandt deplores her mother Winnie's captious criticism and cranky bossiness, her myriad superstitious rituals to ward off bad luck, and her fearful, negative outlook, which has created an emotional abyss between them. Dreading her mother's reaction, Pearl has kept secret the fact that she is suffering from MS. But as she learns during the course of the narrative, Winnie herself has concealed some astonishing facts about her early life in China, abetted by her friend and fellow emigree Helen Kwong. The story Winnie unfolds to Pearl is a series of secrets, each in turn giving way to yet another surprising revelation. Winnie's understated account--during which she goes from a young woman "full of innocence and hope and dreams" through marriage to a sadistic bully, the loss of three babies, and the horror and privations of the Japanese war on China--is compelling and heartrending. As Winnie gains insights into the motivations for other peoples' actions, she herself grows strong enough to conceal her past while building a new life in America, never admitting her deadly hidden fears. Integrated into this mesmerizing story is a view of prewar and wartime China--both the living conditions and the mind-set. Tan draws a vivid picture of the male-dominated culture, the chasm between different classes of society, and the profusion of rules for maintaining respect and dignity. But the novel's immediacy resides in its depiction of human nature, exposing foibles and frailties, dreams and hopes, universal to us all. Major ad/promo; Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club main selections; first serial to Grand Street, Lear's, McCalls and San Francisco Focus; paperback sale to Fawcett/Ivy; author tour.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

YA-- Fans of Tan's Joy Luck Club (Putnam, 1989) will love her powerful second novel. Here she creates an absorbing story about the lives of a Chinese mother and her adult American-born daughter. Pressured to reveal to the young woman her secret past in war-torn China in the 1940s, Winnie weaves an unbelievable account of a childhood of loneliness and abandonment and a young adulthood marred by a nightmarish arranged marriage. Winnie survives her many ordeals because of the friendship and strength of her female friends, the love of her second husband, and her own steadfast courage and endurance. At the conclusion, her secrets are uncovered and she shares a trust/love relationship with her daughter, Pearl, that was missing from both their lives. Some YAs may find the beginning a bit slow, but this beautifully written, heartrending, sometimes violent story with strong characterzation will captivate their interest to the very last page. --Nancy Bard, Thomas Jefferson Sci-Tech, Fairfax County, VA
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

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: Memories of a Writing Life, and two children's books, The Moon Lady and Sagwa, which has now been adapted as a PBS production. Tan was also a 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 thirty-five languages. She lives with her husband in San Francisco and New York.

Customer Reviews

Very interesting book.
Through the narration, Amy Tan is able to reveal so much about Chinese culture and history.
Amy Tan's second book is as good as her first one, The Joy Luck Club.
thing two

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

49 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Ratmammy VINE VOICE on July 13, 2002
Format: Hardcover
THE KITCHEN GOD'S WIFE, Amy Tan's second novel, is another story that deals with family history and relationships between mothers and daughters. Unlike her first novel, THE JOY LUCK CLUB, THE KITCHEN GOD'S WIFE takes place mostly in the past.
Pearl and her mother Winnie have never had a very good relationship. Winnie criticizes Pearl often, and makes it unpleasant for Pearl whenever they come to visit. The book opens with Pearl, her non-Asian husband Phil, and their two young children making the drive to San Francisco to attend a family wedding.
Everyone in the family is there at the wedding, including close family friends and relatives that have been a part of Winnie's life since her days back in China in the early `20's and `30's. An argument breaks out between Pearl and Winnie at the wedding, but before Pearl and her family return home, she and her mother talk. The story that Pearl hears from her mother is a story she has never heard before. It is a secret that Winnie has kept from her daughter for decades, for fear of hurting Pearl. Pearl herself has a secret, but it becomes secondary as Winnie's story unfolds.
Winnie's modern day world was a lifetime away from her early beginnings in China. She was born to a woman that was one of many wives belonging to a man Winnie knew as her father. He was a stranger to her, never giving her the time of day. Winnie's mother was beautiful and educated, and together they lived the life of the pampered rich because of her mother's station in life. Winnie's life turns for the worse when her mother disappears for reasons unknown to the young girl. Winnie finds herself losing the protective life she had with her mother, the home she grew up in, and placed in the home of a distant relative, to be treated like a second class citizen.
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26 of 30 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 22, 1998
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The Kitchen God's Wife starts out differently than you would have expected. The start and the end share a bond being told by the daughter but the middle, that is where the true story comes in. A tale of a mother whose life was as good as she made it out to be. Winnie always thought less of herself and higher of others. She was brought up to believe that she was always wrong and that her evil husband was always right and if she disagreed that she deserved to punished. An amazing story filled with chinese culture that does not sound like a history lesson, this book keeps the readers attention and is wonderfully written. You become part of the story as you read it and therefore, seem to be living Winnie's life along with her. Along with all of the hardships and all of the joys. If you have a heart you will be drawn into this book. I had to read this book for an assignment but it turned out that i actually enjoyed this novel and other works by Amy Tan. A book for those who have lost all hope, but somehow still find enough to keep going and remain strong throughout their entire lives. Enjoy!
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Julie Zhou on January 11, 2008
Format: Paperback
I absolutely loved Amy Tan's "The Joy Luck Club". As an Asian-American myself, I found it to be a beautiful and genuine telling of cultural and familial challenges faced by immigrants. Therefore, I started "Kitchen God's Wife" with high hopes.

Many things are similar between the two novels. Both are filled to bursting with rich, lyric writing. You can taste the sweetness of the rice cakes and frown at the smell of industrial smoke in Amy Tan's China and America. Both introduce compelling family stories of wrestling with cultural differences and the damages of war.

However, that's where the similarities end. "Kitchen God's Wife" takes the wry cynicism in "Joy Luck Club" and fills the whole story with a sense of constant depression populated with utterly uninspiring characters. The main female character begins the story in the dark about her daughter's secrets and spends the rest of her flashback describing how lost and helpless she always felt. Male character #1 begins the story pompous and irritating and descends into monstrous over the course of 200 pages. Male character #2 is unbelievably perfect and never deviates from his predictable course of knight in shining armor.

The story has no development, no climax, and no resolution. I know nothing about the characters at the end of the story that I didn't know 50 pages in. Unfortunately, this made even the female character's most heartbreaking experiences feel boring and predictable.

This story had a lot of potential, and I was sad that it fell so short of expectations.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Kirsten on August 13, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I enjoyed reading Tan's "The Kitchen God's Wife." Although I am not too familiar with Chinese or even Chinese American culture, I was struck by the universal theme of how heartache wears people down, causing them to shield their feelings and strain even their most precious relationships rather than risk being emotionally open and connected to one another. The story revolves around a Chinese mother and her American born daughter, and the way they've retreated from this relationship to numb the suffering each has experienced...which is definitely the wrong antidote. The book unfolds the life story of Winnie, the mother, who grew up in China in the early 1900's and left for the United States sometime shortly after World War II. I don't like to think the harsh treatment she endured, especially as a child, could be true, although cruelty has never been limited to one time or place. At times it seemed the plot got a little convoluted or perhaps repetitious, but Tan is a skilled storyteller and manages to follow through to a credible ending. Her book makes me curious to know more about Chinese culture--to this end, I enjoyed the historical references and observations of customs as seen through the eyes of her various characters.
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