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The Kitchen God's Wife

3.97  ·  Rating Details ·  59,121 Ratings  ·  1,634 Reviews
Winnie and Helen have kept each other's worst secrets for more than fifty years. Now, because she believes she is dying, Helen wants to expose everything. And Winnie angrily determines that she must be the one to tell her daughter, Pearl, about the past—including the terrible truth even Helen does not know. And so begins Winnie's story of her life on a small island outside ...more
Paperback, 416 pages
Published September 21st 2006 by Penguin Books (first published 1991)
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Best Historical Fiction
118th out of 5,824 books — 22,289 voters
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Best Novels That Take Place in China
5th out of 320 books — 918 voters

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Community Reviews

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Aug 14, 2007 Julia rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: mothers and daughters
Shelves: readitandlovedit
great story about a relationship between a mother and daughter. we all, to some degree, struggle with our relationships with our mothers. this book made me look deeply at my own relationship with my mom and got me thinking about how much about my mom and her life that i still don't know. my mom is reading this now and we've had some great conversations about this and what it means to our own relationship.

this is a wonderful story about (1) the incredible love of a mother; (2) cultural assimilat
Apr 17, 2015 Karschtl rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book very much! One of the rare cases where I gave the full 10 stars at Bookcrossing. Here at Goodreads with only 5 stars I give them a little tiny bit more often.

Anyway, very well written, easy to read (because of the 'simple' language Winnie uses) and an absolutely interesting tale. Shocking at times and I felt sorry for Winnie more than once. I was glad that I knew from the beginning that at some point her life changed for the better.

Bought my own copy later on, after this one
Jennifer Cole
Dec 05, 2007 Jennifer Cole rated it it was amazing
What I learned from this book--my favorite part:

"Isn't that how it is when you must decide with your heart? You are not just choosing one thing over another. You are choosing what you want. And you are also choosing what somebody else does not want, and all the consequences that follow. You can tell yourself, That's not my problem, but those words do not wash the trouble away. Maybe it is no longer a problem in your life. But it is always a problem in your heart."
Feb 27, 2011 Sera rated it it was amazing
Another fantastic work by Tan. Tan has a tremendous gift when it comes to her story-telling and her ability to interweave Chinese culture, language and history is not only genius, but also gives her works of fiction incredible authenticity.

TKGW is a story within a story about three Chinese women who emigrated to America, but the real story (and the better story) is what happened to them before they came to America - WWII, the men in their lives and their children not only define the women that t
Jun 04, 2008 Julie rated it it was amazing
This is my favorite of Amy Tan's books. I loved it!
Jul 18, 2008 Joyce rated it really liked it
I decided to re-read this since it had been at least 15 years since I first read it and I remembered it not one whit (that says more about me than it does the novel). Yet there are Cliffs Notes on it now?! Arrgh! A friend of mine who teaches with me also admitted that she got tired of teaching the Joy Luck Club, so she started teaching this one instead because many of the same themes are explored.

I'd agree it's every bit as satisfying as the Joy Luck Club, although if I had to choose between the
Jan 14, 2009 Hollie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Maybe its because I just finished it, but I really liked this book. This is a story of a Chinese woman named "Winnie" and the secrets she keeps from her daughter, not only to protect her daughter, but to protect herself and her best friend. As with many of the books we read, Winnie has had a hard life, almost horrific in some respects but the reason I love her is that the story isn't tragic, she doesn't complain about it (too much), or make herself out to be a hero, well except maybe in her own ...more
Jan 25, 2009 Annette rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: teenagers
I have to say, this book probably took me more than 2 months to finish. At first I regretted picking and buying this book when I read the first 200 pages. But when I was told we had 3 more weeks before the marking period ended, I panicked! This was the only book that I read throughout the whole marking period for advisory and I still have about 200 more pages to go. So then I forced myself to read at least 10 minutes per night. Then on Friday night (1/9), I got hooked onto this book. I read at l ...more
Apr 02, 2009 Lakeshia rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone
Recommended to Lakeshia by: Thrift Store
Shelves: fiction
I'm starting to become a big fan of Asian themed novels. These books give you a sneak peek into the their world and family relationships. Most of Tan's novel is based on relationships between mothers and daughters in Asian families. In this novel, Winnie, the mother of Pearl has a deep dark secret that she's been keeping to herself for years. It isn't until someone close to her decides to unleash that secret that Winnie decides its time to reveal the truth to her daughter.

No matter whether your
Mar 30, 2009 Tracy rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
Make it stop! The first quarter of the book was okay, though I was waiting for something to actually make me care. It was a story about family and secrets and interaction - but then the interaction stopped and with no segue a woman is talking about her history and the abuse she endured and war and infant mortality... it's not clear if she's having 'an episode', if she's talking TO someone, or what.

I began forwarding through random (long) chunks to try to get past this depressing and (so far) poi
Spider the Doof Warrior
Jan 17, 2016 Spider the Doof Warrior rated it really liked it
I love this book. Winnie is so brave. She was stuck with an evil, horrible husband. She went through WW2. Her daughter didn't know all of this about her so she tells her all that she went through. It's a great book about revealing secrets and her daughter learns to admire her mother's strength and find the same in herself.

Also, why do so many folks have to marry horrible, awful people?
Dec 22, 2009 Mehrsa rated it it was ok
I wasn't quite expecting this book to rival Joy Luck Club in complexity or originality, but I don't think it even came close. It starts out with a mother/daughter relationship, but the story quickly turns to the mother's story of an abusive first marriage in feudal China and WWI. The characters are one dimensional and the story is just not original. Her husband is just absurdly bad and most of the characters are flat and uninteresting. It's too long for what it wanted to convey. At the end, it t ...more
Jun 19, 2010 Kasia rated it it was amazing
I adore the way Amy Tan intertwines more than one story line into her books, at first glance it seems that the tale centers on Pearl, the daughter of a Chinese immigrant, who has morphed into the modern American culture and who finds her mother annoying and old fashioned at times. Once the reader gets familiar with Pearl the story then turns back to her mother, Winnie and her childhood friend Helen. Winnie's story is sad and beautiful at the same time, her suffering and struggles to overcome an ...more
May 21, 2015 Caroline rated it liked it
Shelves: novels
The book starts out in contemporary America, and is narrated by Pearl – a second generation Chinese emigrant, who is trying to balance her own 21st century American family life with the needs of her Chinese mother and her mother’s friends. From the third chapter on the narrating is taken over by Winnie, Pearl’s mother, and it transforms into being the story of her life – told against the background of her living in Shanghai in the 1930s and 40s, under the Kuomintang, but with the Communists alre ...more
Ervin Patrick
Nov 19, 2012 Ervin Patrick rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
Ai-ya! While I was reading, I felt Wen Fu around me! Sometimes, I felt like throwing the book on his face or tearing the book apart thinking he would feel torn apart too! But, of course, I can't afford to tear my books apart so I just had to wait when the gods would collect Wen Fu's debts!

This is a very POWERFUL book! and I really mean something that can make you sympathize - smile, and have teary eyes! The characterization is very vivid! I can almost feel I was in China during the war - and bec
Mar 27, 2013 Willow rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: china
Amy Tan writes about women (complex women!) and I think that’s one of the things I love about her books. The men in her stories are shadows, almost undeveloped, with little presence except when they are cruel and threatening.

I found this closed women’s world wonderfully refreshing, especially after reading so many books where men are the main focus. In The Godfather, Mario Puzo jumped into Mama Corleone’s point of view for just one small bit; just long enough to reveal that the wife of the mafi
Full review: I never cease to be amazed at the treatment and plight of women throughout history. I'm certain I wouldn't have lived long, 'cause, honestly, my goal would have been to make sure I took out at least a couple of the meanest men with me! Unbelievable to me and so very very sad. How can dismissing half the human race be justified? I assume Tan is accurate in her portrayal of females in China during the early to almost mid-20th Century. And if s ...more
Sep 12, 2014 Tania rated it liked it
She is not related by blood, not even by marriage. She is not someone I chose as my friend. Sometimes I do not even enjoy her company. I do not agree with her opinions. I do not admire her character. And yet we are closer perhaps than sisters, related by fate, joined by debts. I have kept her secrets. She has kept mine. And we have a kind of loyalty that has no word in this country.

3.5 stars. The Kitchen God's Wife covers many themes and places, yet it is very easy to read. After reading it I ha
Anthony Padua
Jan 08, 2014 Anthony Padua rated it it was amazing
Anthony Padua
Per. 3
Mr. Brandt Final

The Kitchen God's Wife tells the story of Pearl, a Chinese American woman who lives in California with her family. The book is set in various places in California during the 1980's, when many people from all over the world were immigrating to the U.S. Living with her husband and two daughters, Pearl frequently visits her mother, the very mother who escaped China during the Japanese invasion during World War II. Pearl, as well as her mother does every
Apr 10, 2014 Carla rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I thought I had read this book many years ago, but knew that if I had, I would notice right away. I guess I didn't read it! What an wonderful story. A story of secrets held for many many years. Of a Mother and daughter from not only different generations, but cultures and continents. I find the stories of new immigrants and their American born children fascinating. Particularly when the immigrants life in their home country was impoverished, abusive, and horrifying particularly due to war. There ...more
Sep 12, 2014 Sarah rated it it was amazing
Why do I love these books? They are all about women who try to think and feel at the same time. They are taught to be submissive and understand the feelings of others to the extreme. Imagine how hard it is for a smart woman to be logical, kind, understanding ,caring, in a world full of crisis, power and politics. It's amazing that she was able to find love and comfort for a short time in her life.
Jan 16, 2015 Joyce rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was better than expected. I especially loved the relationship between Winnie and Helen. The relationship reminded me of my Mom's with her sister with some crazy ways of looking at things.

Winnie went through some hard, terrible times. Yet the book was not depressing. Winnie had a lot of inner strength. She just didn't know it and thus she lacked confidence in herself. Plus she was also trapped. Living with fear and brutality really impacts one's mind to the point where just surviving i
Mar 24, 2015 Bloodorange rated it liked it
Shelves: us, library
I officially do not want to read anything by Tan again. At least this is how I feel at the moment.

Why the three stars: The Kitchen God's Wife is very well written, but I hated what this book was doing to me. The WWII in China is merely a backdrop for the protagonist's personal drama of epic proportions; suffice to say that when something very bad, but not exactly cruel, happened (view spoiler), I felt relief
Shari Larsen
Pearl Brandt's relationship with her mother is a difficult one; she deplores her mother Winnie's petty criticisms, her bossiness, her superstitious rituals to ward off bad luck, and her negative outlook, so naturally, she is reluctant to tell her mother about her diagnosis of MS. But when her Aunt Helen believes she is dying from a brain tumor, she insists that Pearl tell her mother the truth about her illness, and Helen also pressures Winnie into telling her daughter the truth about her past.

Kavita Ramesh
Dec 02, 2015 Kavita Ramesh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Debbie Zapata
Mar 24, 2016 Debbie Zapata rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: douglas
Secrets. Mothers and daughters nearly always keep secrets from each other. But at some point in life the secrets need to be told....don't they? Winnie, Pearl's mother, faces this dilemma. Winnie's dearest friend Helen is threatening to tell Pearl all of the secrets of Winnie's early years in China. So Winnie decides to tell Pearl her life story before Helen does. Because of course Helen would not tell it correctly anyway.

But Pearl has a secret of her own. Will hearing her mother's secrets give h
Amanda Coak
Mar 30, 2016 Amanda Coak rated it really liked it
#a book about a culture you are unfamiliar with

I read this book in six days because...Spring Break - I can! I'm a fan of Amy Tan's novels, and although I feel very strongly that nothing of hers will ever come close to Joy Luck Club, I enjoyed this book a lot. You love to hate the villainous ex-husband, and there's the perfect amount of mother-daughter strife common in all of Tan's books. I enjoy how Tan always creates mother figures that are: annoying, humorous, wise, and naive (all in one). It
May 30, 2016 Debra rated it really liked it
The book begins with Pearl planning on attending a wedding but then also learns there is a funeral. As most of Tans books, this book deals with family history, relationships, some cultural history of China, the life of women in China and assimilation to the United States.

Winnie and her friend Helen have a kept a secret for most of their lives, Winnie's daughter Pearl also has a secret she has been keeping from her Mother. Helen steps in, claims she is dying (is she?) and tells each Winnie and Pe
May 08, 2016 Claudia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Me ha parecido un libro precioso y aunque no he podido leerlo con la rapidez con que me habría gustado, creo que el hecho de haberlo ido saboreando de a pocos, en momentos en que me ha resultado de compañía en situaciones difíciles, le da un valor muy especial y sin duda lo recordaré siempre con cariño por un montón de motivos, no solo literarios. La habilidad de la autora para narrar una historia tan dura y compleja como la de Winnie, sin solazarse en las penas, sino resaltando la fortaleza de ...more
May 18, 2016 Florence rated it really liked it
The Kitchen God is recognized in traditional Chinese culture. His wife is ignored. She does all the chores, suffers all life's hardships, and is never recognized as a deity. The mother-daughter relationship between Chinese-Americans, Pearl and Winnie, is a bit strained. They are from different generations. The Americanized younger generation does not adhere to the subtle rules of social interactions. They don't communicate well with the family's elders. Secrets from from the past remain deeply b ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
  • Night of Many Dreams
  • Spring Moon: A Novel of China
  • Amy Tan's the Joy Luck Club
  • Wild Ginger
  • Pavilion of Women: A Novel of Life in the Women's Quarters
  • A Cup of Light
  • Inheritance
  • The Vagrants
  • Peony in Love
  • The Red Chamber
  • China Men
  • The Chinese in America: A Narrative History
  • The Favorites
  • A Free Life
Amy Tan (Chinese: 譚恩美; pinyin: Tán Ēnměi; born February 19, 1952) is an American writer whose works explore mother-daughter relationships and what it means to grow up as a first generation Asian American. In 1993, Tan's adaptation of her most popular fiction work, The Joy Luck Club, became a commercially successful film.

She has written several other books, including The Kitchen God's Wife, The Hun
More about Amy Tan...

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“Chance is the first step you take, luck is what comes afterward.” 1806 likes
“Isn't that how it is when you must decide with your heart? You are not just choosing one thing over another. You are choosing what you want. And you are also choosing what somebody else does not want, and all the consequences that follow. You can tell yourself, That's not my problem, but those words do not wash the trouble away. Maybe it is no longer a problem in your life. But it is always a problem in your heart.” 119 likes
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