Sunday, December 7, 2008

TSS Week 23

I just finished The Hundred Secret Senses, which is now one of my favorite Amy Tan novels, rivaled only by The Bonesetter's Daughter. Yes, I love The Joy Luck Club, The Kitchen God's Wife and Saving Fish From Drowning - I love any Tan story I come across - but The Hundred Secret Senses (along with The Bonesetter's Daughter) really stands out.

Olivia, the narrator, is the American-born daughter of a Chinese man and an American woman. When her father is on his deathbed, he reveals to his wife that he left behind a daughter in China and asks her to retrieve and raise her. Enter Kwan, Olivia's older half-sister who believes that she has "yin eyes" and can see and speak to ghosts.

Olivia struggles her whole life to ignore and dismiss Kwan's superstitions until her marriage is crumbling and she, her estranged husband and her sister find themselves on a trip to China together. The ending is extremely poignant and bittersweet without being unrealistic. Tan plumbs the depths of issues like life and death, reincarnation, history, soul ties, relationships and culture in this story, and I just ate it up.

I'm also rereading The Catcher in the Rye for some volunteer work I do at the library. Is it just me, or does that novel get better every time you read it? Maybe I am just getting older and smarter, and can actually see the genius in the handiwork instead of loving it because Holden curses (which is why I loved it when I first read it in high school). Okay, that's not entirely true, but it was certainly part of it - going from reading authors like Dickens and Shakespeare to J.D. Salinger, someone whose work is dated for a child of the 80s and 90s but just as timeless as those other masters, was a breath of fresh air. Holden cursed, he thought most of the adults around him were morons, and he struggled with not fitting in and not being understood. He made me love him from the very first reading.

Now that I am older, there is only more to love - Holden's concern for protecting the innocence of children, his mourning for the loss of his own innocence, his struggle to understand a complicated and "phoney" world. When I first read Catcher, Holden was my peer - now, he is a child to my adult. It is strange to view a character from such a shifting lens. Yet I have a feeling I will still be reading Catcher when I'm 80, and I will still be finding new layers to love.


Ms. Bookish said...

It's been a while since I've read Amy Tan - The Hundred Secret Senses sounds good.

SmallWorld at Home said...

I have NOT read The Bonesetter's Daughter, and I really must! I'm not sure that I've read this one, either, but it sounds terribly familiar. I loved the other 3!