Friday, February 8, 2013

The Hundred Secret Senses by Amy Tan

Ghosts of the Past: (Chinese Week)

The Hundred Secret Senses by Amy Tan is as captivating as any of Amy Tan’s works including The Kitchen God’s Wife and The Bonesetter’s Daughter

Kwan enters Olivia’s life in an unexpected way when Olivia’s father dies and his daughter from his first marriage comes to live with them in America. Five-year-old Olivia would have preferred a new turtle or a doll; instead she got an older half-sister. Seeing Kwan at the airport Olivia thought she looked like a chubby old lady with braids dressed in pajamas bellowing a loud “Hall-ooo!”  Kwan is a built-in embarrassment. She’s awkwardly unfamiliar with American culture. She’s tactless, loud, talkative, and annoyingly upbeat. She’s the crazy relative you don’t want anyone to know about. But she’s also very tolerant and kind with the more self-absorbed Olivia. In her endless prattle, Kwan tells Olivia about Chinese superstitions and ghost stories.  She explains to Libby (Kwan can’t pronounce her name right, so calls her Libby-ah) that she has “yin eyes” and can see ghosts.   

As an adult, Olivia has listened to Kwan’s tales all her life and she’s tired of them.  She has very little patience for Kwan and acknowledges that she never does anything with Kwan unless it’s out of guilt. Besides, she has her own worries with her marriage unraveling. But Kwan is ever eager to help in her own way. In an effort to bring the two back together, Kwan plans a trip for the three of them to China.  There the “ghost stories” come to life in tales that alternate between past and present.


Chinese New Year is this Sunday, February 10, 2013 and marks the lunar new year.  The actual New Year celebrations last for fifteen days in China.  If you are interested in learning more about Chinese New Year, this link will bring you to an excellent site for a brief presentation on the history of Chinese New Year.  Be sure to click “Next Slide” to see all pages:

Each Chinese year is represented by an animal which repeats in a twelve-year cycle. This is the year of the snake.  Find out what Chinese Zodiac Animal You Are:

Gung Hay Fat Choy!
(Best wishes and congratulations. Have a prosperous and good year.)

What about you?  What’s a good book with a setting in China that you have enjoyed? Enter a comment or email me at and I will post your answer

What did you think of this book? Post a comment or email:


  1. I love Amy Tan's books - I will have to read this one.

    1. Finally a book that I have read, I enjoyed it very much like all of Amy Tan's book. You can "hear" Kwan calling Olivia "Libby-ah" all through the book.