Published by Penguin Books on September 21st 2006
Buy on Amazon
The book begins with Pearl planning on attending a wedding but then also learns there is a funeral. 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 and her friend Helen have a kept a secret for most of their lives, Winnie’s daughter Pearl also has a secret she has been keeping from her Mother. Helen steps in, claims she is dying (is she?) and tells each Winnie and Pearl that they need to tell their secrets or she will. Winnie decides that she will tell her daughter what she has kept secret from her.
Winnie’s story is set on a small island outside of Shanghai in the 20’s but she moves to other locations in China prior to coming to the United States in 1949.
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. She ends up being married to a man who physically and emotionally abuses her. This is only the beginning. Her story may be painful to some who have suffered domestic violence, or who have suffered the loss of their children. Winnie does not have a happy life until she meets Pearl’s father in China at a Military Dance. They fall in love and then begins the story of Winnie trying to escape to be with the man she loves. Pearl in turn, shares her “secret” with her Mother. Her secret does not have the same impact (for me the reader). Their shared confessions serve to bring them closer and ends with Winnie wanting to take Pearl on a trip.
Amy tan does complex relation ships well. She is able to show the complexities of Mother/Daughter relationships. Winnie and Pearl were not close their relationship has not always been good. Tan also writes about female friendships, husband/wife relationships in this book. Her writing is beautiful and lyrical. I enjoyed how Winnie’s story was told. It almost felt like a book within a book.
4 Stars for me. I found I did not like this book as much as I liked some of her others. Tan’s writing is beautiful but at times I wanted to have things speed up a little. Some may not like the changing POV of the main characters. But I think most wont mind.