The Kitchen God’s Wife (1991)

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Author: Amy Tan

Finished reading on: 7/5/17


I read Amy Tan for the first time three years ago and I have loved her writing ever since. I love her theme of mothers and daughters because it’s a relationship I can easily relate to. I love how she weaves in narratives from pre-communist China along with the stories of Chinese Americans. Now that I have lived in China, I can easily imagine the settings and characters she describes.


I don’t have much to say about this particular novel. I will offer here only a brief synopsis and cursory engagement with the novel’s themes.


It’s a frame tale. The first layer story is about a Chinese American daughter and her tenuous relationship with her very Chinese mother. The middle story is all about her mother’s life in China, how she fell into a very bad marriage and how she finally left that bad man for her true love, a Chinese American she met during the war. Honestly, the novel has a bit of a slow start. I didn’t really get into it until Winnie met her second husband. But after that the plot got much stronger.


The novel is about marriage, true love, friendship, sorrow and suffering. Winnie struggles with whether she should accept her fate or whether she should hope for a better future and do what she can to claim that future. Eventually Winne makes the choice to fight for her future. And when Winnie many years later hears that her daughter, Pearl, has an incurable disease she helps her daughter find the hope to not give into her fate without a fight. Ultimately this novel is about how much a mother loves her daughter and about how much healing can come when there is honesty between two people who really do love each other very much.


The mother daughter relationship is so important and so formative. It isn’t celebrated enough in literature which is why I appreciate Amy Tan’s work so much.


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