She has written several other books, including The Kitchen God’s Wife, The Hundred Secret Senses, and The Pinsetter’s Daughter, and a collection of non- fiction essays entitled The Opposite of Fate: A Book of Musings.
Her most recent book, Saving Fish From Drowning, explores the tribulations experienced by a group of people who disappear while on an art expedition into the Jungles of Burma. In addition, Tan has written two children’s books: The Moon Lady (1992) and Sagas. The Chinese Siamese Cat (1 994), which was turned into an animated series airing on PBS.She has also appeared on PBS in a short spot on encouraging children to write. 11.
Synopsis The Kitchen God’s Wife opens with the narrative voice of Pearl Lie Brandt, the American-born daughter of a Chinese mother and a Chinese-American father, who is to request that Pearl ask her daughters to attend the engagement party of Pearl’s cousin ABA-ABA in San Francisco. Right away, Pearl feels a reluctance to oblige her mother, since she is more involved in her American identity-?perhaps a result of her marriage to Phil, an American-?than her Chinese background.Nevertheless, she feels an obligation to attend her families’ festivity and knows she would feel guilty otherwise. Then, two days before the engagement party, Pearl receives another call from her mother telling her that Auntie Du has died and that the funeral will be arranged for the day after the engagement party.
So, with all of this on her shoulders, Pearl sets out toward San Francisco with her young daughters, Tests and Cleo, and her husband. Upon her return to her childhood home, Pearl’s Auntie Helen, ABA-Boa’s mother, who co-owns a flower shop with Pearl’s mother pulls Pearl aside and makes a request.Auntie Helen tells Pearl that Pearl must tell her mother Winnie about Pearl’s ultimate sclerosis, which everyone in the family knows about, except for Winnie. Helen says that Pearl must do this because Helen believes that Helen has a malignant brain tumor and does not want to die knowing that Winnie does not know this about her daughter. Helen continues by saying that if Winnie will not tell her mother the truth, Helen will be forced to do so herself.
Later, Helen pulls Wienie’s mother aside as well and tells Winnie that she must unveil the secrets of her past to her daughter because she cannot go to her grave with such secrets.We find out later hat Helen knows her tumor is benign and is simply using the idea of her own death as a pretext to force mother and daughter to unleash their secrets. It is at this point that the novel changes narrative voices and begins to be narrated by Winnie Lie, who begins to tell Pearl the story of Wienie’s past. Before she reached the United States, Winnie experienced much turmoil, strife, and suffering. She was abandoned by her mother as a young child, never knowing very much about her mother’s mysterious disappearance.
Winnie, whose name in China was Well, is forced to live tit her Uncle and his two wives (New Aunt and Old Aunt).She never feels as loved as her uncle’s true daughter, Well’s cousin, Peanut. Nevertheless, when the time comes, Wienie’s aunts arrange a traditional marriage for her, and her father provides a large dowry, since he is an educated and well-established man. The marriage, however, to a man named Went If, turns out to be a terrible one. Went If is horribly abusive-?physically, mentally, and emotionally. Winnie manages to suffer through her manage while surviving World War II.
She loses many children along the way, some to early deaths and one that was stillborn.It is during the War that Winnie becomes friends with Helen, whose name in China was Hula. By telling her daughter about this friendship, Winnie is revealing that Helen and Winnie are not really in-laws as the family in America believes, but only friends who have gone through much hardship together. Winnie had had to lie and say that Helen was her dead brother’s first wife in order to bring Helen to the United States, after Winnie had already been in the United States for a while. Winnie lived her new husband Jimmy Lie, the man whom Pearl had always been told was her father.Jimmie Lie was a DOD husband, a good father, and a minister in the Chinese Baptist Church, but he had died when Pearl was a teenager.
Winnie had met Jimmy Lie in China, at an American dance. He was American born, though his background was Chinese, and he away from Went If. The biggest secret, however, that Winnie tells her daughter, is that before Winnie was able to escape her marriage, Went If raped her and that Went If is Pearl’s real father. Winnie tells her daughter also that it is only now that she feels truly free from Went Fuss wickedness and his threats, because she has received news of his death.After Winnie tells her daughter about her past, Pearl reveals the secret of her own disease. By the time the wedding of ABA-ABA comes around, mother and daughter know each other better and are able to appreciate each other’s positions, ideas, and beliefs better. Also, by the end of the novel, Helen reveals the planning of a trip to China-?a trip that Helen, Pearl, and Winnie will take together. 111.
Characters ABA-ABA ABA-ABA, or Roger, is Hellene son. It is on the occasion of his fourth marriage that Pearl is thrust back into her Chinese family and comes to learn Wienie’s secrets. Wan Betty Wan Betty was a woman Winnie knew in China.Also known as “Beautiful Betty,” she operated the telegraph office where Winnie sent telegrams requesting money from her dowry when she and Went If and the others are forced to flee Nanking. It is she who sends the news to Helen and Winnie that Went If has died, decades after Winnie left him.
By passing on this news, she sets in motion all sorts of memories for Winnie, who knows she must at last tell Pearl about him. Pearl Brandt Pearl is the Chinese-American daughter of Winnie and Jimmy Lie. Her upbringing as an American has kept her from understanding her mother, whose superstitions and lack of warmth both puzzle and anger Pearl.She does not feel able to tell her mother that she has multiple sclerosis, because she dreads her mother’s reaction; Winnie always seems to blame herself for not preventing someone’s bad luck. Phil Brandt Phil is Pearl’s husband.
Together, they have two daughters, Tests and Cleo. Tests and Cleo Brandt Tests and Cleo are Pearl’s two young daughters. Danna Danna was Wienie’s second child with Went If (their first child, a daughter, had died). When she left Went If, Winnie took Danna with her to live with Jimmy Lie. She decided to send him to stay with Hula and Jiao in Hardin when she feared Went If as getting close to finding them.However, Danna died of an epidemic before Winnie could Join him there.
She always blamed herself for his death. Gang Gang was a pilot who had a crush on Winnie while she was married to Went If. He was gentle and kind to Winnie, and they might have developed a relationship if he had Grand Auntie Du is Hellene aunt. The old woman had lived with Helen in China and come with her to the United States. As Winnie recounts her life in China, she tells how Auntie Du stood by her when she was Jailed for two years, then finally contrived a way to get Winnie released.After Pearl attends Grand Auntie Dud’s funeral, she finds that Auntie Du left her a Buddhist alter in which a statue of the Kitchen God resides. The Fortune Teller The Fortune Teller is the one whom Winnie blames for her marriage to Went If. When she changed Peanut’s fortune so that she would marry a rich outsider, Peanut’s original fortune (to marry Went If) diverted to Winnie.
Went If Went If was Wienie’s first husband. He wanted to marry Wienie’s cousin, Peanut, but a fortune teller caused him to marry Winnie instead. After their marriage, he revealed his true colors as a brutal husband, a liar, and an adulterer.He thought of himself as a war hero, although he was actually a cowardly pilot.
Auntie Helen Auntie Helen is Wienie’s longtime friend. She is not really Pearl’s aunt, nor is her real name Helen. Winnie met her in China during the war, when their husbands were stationed together as pilots. Her name was Hula then, and she came from a poor family. After Winnie went to America and married Jimmy Lie, Winnie helped Hula and her husband (known to Pearl as Uncle Henry) escape China.
The two women keep each other’s secrets for many years, until Helen, who pretends to be dying, threatens to tell Pearl everything.Little YK’s Mother Little YK’s Mother is the mother of one of Wienie’s and Peanut’s old school friends. After she her daughter, You, committed suicide to escape a bad marriage, Little YK’s Mother made it her mission to help other women escape their marriages. She helps Winnie escape from Went If. Jimmy Lie Jimmy was Wienie’s second husband.
He is the man Pearl knew as her father, although she finds out that Went If could likely have been her real father. Winnie tells how she met Jimmy during the war, at an American dance, and later fell in love with him. Although he looked Chinese, he was born in America and worked for theUnited States Information Service.
After Winnie was Jailed, he had to return to America, but he waited for her and then married her when she was able to come to America. He became a Baptist minister. San Ma San Ma is one of Kiang SAA-yen’s wives. She helps Winnie select her dowry items, never letting on that her own daughter was given a much larger dowry.
She stands by Kiang even after he is denounced as a traitor. Mary Kong Mary is Hellene daughter. She irritates Pearl because she seems to pity Pearl after she is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Min is Went Fuss first mistress. He shames Winnie by keeping her in the same house s Winnie.Winnie eventually becomes friends with the girl and tries to use her as a means to force Went If to divorce her. Went If, however, simply kicks Min out.
Old Aunt and New Aunt Old Aunt and New Aunt are the wives of Wienie’s father’s brother. New Aunt is Peanut’s mother. Winnie is under their care when she is sent to live in Disuniting after her mother’s disgrace. Peanut Peanut, whose real name was Hugging, was Wienie’s pretty, spoiled cousin. After she married Went If, Winnie learned that Peanut married a rich man. After the war, Winnie learned that Peanut had left her husband and become a communist in Shanghai.She inspired Winnie to leave Went If and introduced her to the woman who had helped her escape her own marriage. Kiang SAA-yen Kiang SAA-yen was Wienie’s father.
Winnie harbored resentment towards him for ignoring her after her mother’s disgrace, for allowing her to marry Went If when he knew he was dishonorable, and for giving her a dowry much less than that of his other daughters. During the war, he tried to save his textile empire by cooperating with the Japanese, but after the war he became a broken old man branded as a traitor. When Winnie tells him she is leaving Went If, the stroke-ridden old man gives re some hidden gold ingots.In this way, he tries to repair the damage he has done her. Winnie Winnie Lie is Pearl’s mother. Throughout the novel, she reveals to Pearl the terrible secrets of her life in China. Born Kiang Well, Winnie recounts a life of bad luck that began when her mother abandoned her when she was six. She recounts details of her miserable marriage to an abusive man, Went If.
She also tells about losing all her children, about surviving World War II, and about being Jailed when she tried to escape from her marriage and elope with a Chinese-American man, Jimmy Lie. YukYuk, whose name means “pleasure over bitterness,” was Wienie’s first baby with Went If. She was healthy until Went If hit her; after that, the baby was never normal. She died of a fever when Went If refused to listen to Wienie’s pleas for a Helen Kong – Wienie’s best friend, Helen is stubborn and also strong.
She had grown up in poverty and married into a higher class, survived the war, and, with Wienie’s help, had immigrated to America. She has a selective memory, is an optimist, and is always trying to repair situations. Long Jiao Hellene first husband. Jiao was a good man who had done a serious wrong in his life.
He marries Helen out of guilt for having wronged her sister, but the two turn out to have a good marriage. Jiao has a high rank in the air force but is humble. He forgives easily and is also easily swayed by his wife. Henry Kong – Hellene second husband. Henry loves his wife very much, and it is important for him to look good and strong in front of her. He is not as he seems, however, and is, in in getting Winnie out of prison. Nevertheless, he is a good man.
Tests Brandt and – Pearl and Phial’s young daughters. Both girls are being raised in an American way, and yet they love their grandmother and her stories.