Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Kitchen God's Wife by Amy Tan

Two down, four to go on my Expanding Your Horizons book challenge. I read this one to and from Florida and finished it the evening I got home. Here's my review:

I didn't NOT like this book. Well, actually, I didn't particularly like the first two chapters and I didn't really like the last two either - the dialogue in these chapters seemed so contrived to me. The interactions and dialogue seemed so stereotypical Chinese mother wtih her Chinese-American daughter - I just didn't believe they were real.

My feelings changed, however, for the entire middle of the book, when Winnie (the mother) is telling her story of growing up in China. THAT felt real to me - it meshed so well with other books I have read about China during that time period (especially Wild Swans) and Winnie's story was tragic and beautifully told. I liked how the story in that part was told to me as if I was the daughter and my mother was telling me her story - interjecting lessons she learned, explaining why she did something and how it affected her later.

I feel like this book did give me a intimate glimpse at Chinese culture, both in China and in America. One thing that really struck me was how very important family honor and the choices your family has made in the past affect the present and future. Your ancestors, your family name, whether or not someone in your family has "disgraced" the honor of the family: these things seem to be the glue that ties families and community together (obviously not always in a positive way).

I don't know if I'll be racing to read any more Amy Tan, but this helped me to remember that I really do enjoy reading about the Chinese experience - in all its beauty and brutality. If anyone has any other recommendations, I'd surely appreciate it.

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