The Kitchen God's Wife

The Kitchen God's Wife

by Amy Tan

Winnie and Helen have kept each other's worst secrets for more than fifty years.

Now, because she believes she is dying, Helen wants to expose everything.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Fiction
  • Rating: 4.00
  • Pages: 416
  • Publish Date: September 21st 2006 by Penguin Books
  • Isbn10: 0143038109
  • Isbn13: 9780143038108

What People Think about "The Kitchen God's Wife"

Amy Tan writes about women (complex women!) and I think thats one of the things I love about her books. I found this closed womens world wonderfully refreshing, especially after reading so many books where men are the main focus. In The Godfather, Mario Puzo jumped into Mama Corleones point of view for just one small bit; just long enough to reveal that the wife of the mafia godfather did not concern herself with her husbands violent world. They were from two different worlds, and this separate view reminded me of Winnie, the main protagonist in The Kitchen Gods Wife. Winnie is so distant from her cruel husband that she doesnt even know if Wen Fu is a gangster, and Tan never confirms it either. The love and pain they feel is universal, and I found myself quite choked up at the end, thinking about the friends and family that are in my own womens world. If youve never read a Tan book, youll be instantly transported to a new world. But if youve read her other books, youll definitely recognize many of the same themes and character types that she usually writes about.

Winnie, Pearl's mother, faces this dilemma. Winnie's dearest friend Helen is threatening to tell Pearl all of the secrets of Winnie's early years in China. So Winnie decides to tell Pearl her life story before Helen does. I promised my mother that I would take her this book in May. She recently discovered Tan's work when she read The Bonesetter's Daughter.

great story about a relationship between a mother and daughter.

I read this book for the Goodreads' Book Club: Diversity in All Forms! The story takes a huge turn when Winnie shares what her life was like in China.

But it is always a problem in your heart."

As the story progresses, we realize that the relationship between the Pearl and Winnie is quite complex, which by might another reason why Pearl has revealed her health condition to almost everyone but Winnie. The way Pearl was explaining cultural related things was simple but interesting. Helen does the same thing to Winnie, demanding that Winnie reveals her past (and the secrets it hides) to Pearl. At times it was difficult to read about everything that happened to Winnie, I often felt like it was, quite frankly, too much. There were a few episodes that could have been left out, as there was no need to turn an already tragic story into some kind of a contest of how many horrible things can happen to a single person. While I was reading Winnies story I felt transported to another time and place. On overall, I would say that this novel was easier to follow than The Joy Luck Club, mainly because there are only two narrators. Finally, both Winnie's and Pearl's life stories are interesting and worth reading, even if I think that on Winnies side of things there was some exaggeration. Not in the sense that these kind of terrible things described in Winnies life story didnt use to happen to women, and probably still do for that matter, but in the sense that it felt excessive to include that amount of trauma and put it all on the shoulders of one character. Having already been introduced to similar themes in Amy Tans previous novel, I have to admit that I felt a little less involved in the story. Reading The Joy Luck Club felt like being immersed into a magical world.

The book starts out in contemporary America, and is narrated by Pearl a second generation Chinese emigrant, who is trying to balance her own 21st century American family life with the needs of her Chinese mother and her mothers friends. From the third chapter on the narrating is taken over by Winnie, Pearls mother, and it transforms into being the story of her life told against the background of her living in Shanghai in the 1930s and 40s, under the Kuomintang, but with the Communists already making their presence felt, and her experiences with the Japanese invasion of Shanghai . On a personal level it is about Winnies relationships, with her own mother, with her first husband Wen Fu, with her friends Hulan, Peanut, Min and Grand Auntie Du, and finally, about her relationship with the Chinese-American translator Jimmy Louie. The first pillar of the book for me was the suffocating nature of the family life portrayed. The book ends with a return to the present day, with Winnie and her daughter Pearl coming to terms with a lot of things in one anothers lives that they had previously kept secret, and we sense a new closeness between them.

As most of Tans books, this book deals with family history, relationships, some cultural history of China, the life of women in China and assimilation to the United States. Winnie's story is a sad one, born to a beautiful mother who one day disappeared she is sent to live with a distant relative, he way of life changes drastically. Pearl in turn, shares her "secret" with her Mother. Their shared confessions serve to bring them closer and ends with Winnie wanting to take Pearl on a trip. Tan also writes about female friendships, husband/wife relationships in this book.

In addition, Tan has written two children's books: The Moon Lady (1992) and Sagwa, The Chinese Siamese Cat (1994), which was turned into an animated series airing on PBS.