Review: The Kitchen God’s Wife- Amy Tan

The Kitchen God’s Wife is a beautiful tale of hope, tragedy and despair, set against the turbulent backdrop of Shanghai in the 1920s. A plot that is woven with secrets from beginning to end, the reader is introduced to two Chinese women named Winnie Louie and Helen Kwong, who have kept each other’s secrets for over fifty years. To Winnie’s fury, Helen threatens to expose them because she believes she is dying, and does not want to go to her grave with so mny things left unanswered or hidden. Wanting her daughter Pearl to hear about her amy tanfateful past from her own self, Winnie tells the tragic story of her life in China during World War II, and how such terrible and happy events led to her fighting for her freedom and immigrating to America after the war.

As with all of her novels, Tan explores the theme of identity and culture; it was absorbing to read about the customs and beliefs of the Chinese culture that Tan very naturally portrays. So many intricate little details, all told in Tan’s simple yet lyrical prose, combine together to give you a vivid image of China in the 1920s, and the hardships and harsh realities that were consistent in that time. The main thing I loved about the novel was the wonderful cast of female characters and their relationships with each other. All of these women have such strong voices and each one is flawed in some way- and yet this is what makes them so likeable. They are human. They experience pain and know what it is like to suffer, as they struggle to assert their independence and self-determination in a male-dominated world. Their relationships with one another is also very accurately (and humorously) depicted. Winnie and Helen for example bicker and argue most of the time and each try to prove the other wrong. While they compete with or resent the other however they still care for each other and will always remain friends, and it is this relationship I found the most endearing.

A wonderful novel that explores the tragic past, conflicting cultures and complicated mother-daughter relationships, The Kitchen God’s Wife is a very gripping and emotional read that does much to esteem Amy Tan as one of America’s most talented authors.

Rating: 4/5

Do I recommend you to read it? Yes, especially for mothers and daughters

Genre: historical/ cultural novel