Book Review

by Amy Tan

Genre: Mainstream, General Mainstream Fiction

RT Rating

The ties that bind certain people together are sometimes impossible to break, even lasting throughout different lifetimes. Olivia Laguni-Bishop has been tied to her half sister Kwan Li by a combination of love, guilt and tolerance.

On his death bed, Olivia's Chinese father informs his American wife Louise, that he had been previously married and has a daughter, Kwan, still trapped inside China. In her husband's memory, Louise agrees to bring Kwan to the U.S. As a young child, Olivia is jealous and uncomfortable with the idea of having an older sister. Kwan, on the other hand, takes one look at little Olivia and bonds for life.

Saying that Kwan is a slightly odd duck is an understatement. Olivia has frequently figured that her sister is just plain crazy. Olivia's mother and stepfather briefly placed Kwan in a mental institution after her revelation about having "Yin eyes," which allow her to see the sprits of those who have died and gone to dwell in the World of Yin.

All during Olivia's childhood, Kwan would tell her tales of the World of Yin, especially stories of the missionary Miss Banner, her devoted friend Numunu and their adventures/trials in 1864 China.

Are Kwan's tales just stories, or do they outline a previous life where once again Olivia and Kwan were closely tied together? What lesson is there to be learned from the past?

Bestselling author Amy Tan excels at bringing complex and unique characters vividly to life. Their all-too-human flaws and foibles are relentlessly displayed for examination and review. While the narrative switch is sometimes a little difficult to follow, THE HUNDRED SECRET SENSES takes readers on a wondrous journey that is unforgettable. (Oct., 368 pp., $24.95)

Reviewed By: Jill M. Smith

Publisher: Putnam

Published: December 1995

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