Amy Tan is probably one of top favorite authors. I love the way she writes and that all of her stories deal with Chinese traditions in one form or another and Kitchen God’s Wife is no different. Tan opens with a daughter who dislikes the traditions/superstitions about luck, criticisms, and fearfulness of her mother. She fears telling her mother a secret and then learns her mother holds a few secrets of her own. The Kitchen God’s Wife explores the relationship between mother and daughter and the things that can make them drift apart throughout the years.
This is a great story of two friends who know each others secrets: Winnie and
Helen. Helen is slowly dying and wants to reveal all of her secrets. Winnie
stressed that Helen needs to tell her daughter Pearl everything as opposed to
someone else revealing them. This story is Helen’s life being exposed,
her life from a small island on the outside of Shanghai through life in China
during World War 2. The story is mixed with happiness and sadness that leads to
her coming to America in 1949. While the story follows Helen’s life in the
past it is a story of the relationship amongst families, focusing on mothers
and daughters, which is a common theme in many of Tan’s work.
One aspect that I enjoyed within this novel is that it starts out in Pearl’s
viewpoint, but then it switches over to Winnie’s view and ends with Pearl’s new
insight on her mother and her family. Amy Tan’s writing is rich with emotion,
and picturesque descriptions that you can almost smell the rice cakes she
describes, or almost see the island Helen lived on. With that said, throughout
the story there is struggle, heartache and pain that you begin to feel for the
main female character which is Helen. You feel the pain she goes through as she
Tan is known for taking words and weaving them into a compelling story that
draws her readers in. I did find in some parts the story to be lacking and
seemed to just drag on, but there were also points where I could not put the
novel down it was too interesting. If you are someone who enjoys a fast paced
book that flies through the story, this is not the novel for you. It takes time
to develop the story, almost to the point where you begin to wonder when the
story will begin to develop.
I have read a few of Amy Tan's work and while this is not my all time favorite,
but it is not one of my least favorites. There is a lot within this novel
to learn from not just the history story, but the relationship of mother and
daughter, or rather family in general. We may try to think of what our
family members are thinking, but can never know what all they have been
If you are a fan of Amy Tan, then you should read this novel. She does a
wonderful job with this novel, and it is a great addition to any library. Any
Amy Tan novel is a must read.
Pros: Interesting characters and storyline, great history behind characters
Cons: Can have moments of slow pace, too familiar theme
Bottom Line: This is one of my favorite Amy Tan novel and think it should be among everyone's to read list.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars