Who wrote this book and when?
Amy Tan published this in 1991.

Has there been a film version?
No.

Who are the important characters?
Pearl – a married Chinese American woman with Multiple Sclerosis, she’s hiding her disease from her mother
Winnie – Pearl’s mother, an immigrant from China
Hulan/Helen – Winnie’s best friend, also an immigrant from China
Wen Fu – Winnie’s first husband, a very cruel man
Jiaguo – Hulan’s first husband
Jimmy Louie – Winnie’s second husband
Auntie Du – a very good friend of Winnie’s

What’s it about?
The book starts out from Pearl’s point of view as she explains the complicated relationship between her and her mother, Winnie. Pearl has been diagnosed with MS, and knowing how her mother makes a big deal out of everything, Pearl hides it from Winnie. When Great Auntie Du passes away and Pearl’s cousin Bao-Bao gets engaged, Pearl makes the mistake of telling her mother’s friend Helen about her MS. Helen, under the pretense of having a brain tumor and wanting to get everything off her chest before death, gives Pearl a deadline to tell her mother about her illness. A few days later, Helen gives Winnie a deadline to tell her daughter about her life in China and the man who may really be Pearl’s father. The rest of the story, with the exception of the last few chapters, is from Winnie’s point of view as she tells Pearl about being deserted by her own mother, about her cruel and abusive first husband in China, about the children she lost, how she really met Helen, and how she escaped from her oppressive marriage and came to marry Jimmy Louie.

Why is this book a classic/bestseller?
Because of Amy Tan’s ability to capture the true quality of relationships by using historical events in people’s lives; primarily between mothers and daughters.

Do you recommend I read this book?
Very much so.

How did this book make your list?
It’s by Amy Tan.

Has it won any awards?
No, I don’t think so…which surprises me.

Favorite quotes:
“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.” – p 360

Anything else?
This book was so good, and I devoured it so quickly, that I barely acknowledged I should mark where my favorite quotes are.

Personal thoughts:
As usual, Amy Tan blows me away with her writing abilities. Although I am Caucasian and not able to relate to the erosion of my culture like American Chinese people, I can relate to tension between mothers and daughters. (As I’m sure 99% of women can.) And Tan uses the different secrets between Pearl and Winnie to craft an amazingly relevant tale despite it’s complete lack of resemblance to my own life. Winnie’s story is heartbreaking but empowering, and when placed alongside Pearl’s struggles, spotlights just how much mothers and daughters are alike – no matter how they try to deny it.

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