In Amy Tan’s The Hundred Secret Senses, Olivia is a child who meets her adult half-sister from China for the first tiem. Kwan becomes Olivia’s caretaker because Olivia’s flighty mother is too busy with a new marriage and a variety of volunteer activities to pay much attention to her child. As Olivia grows up, she resents Kwan, not only because Kwan has essentially replaced her mother, but also because of the ridiculous stories Kwan tells about ghosts she can see and converse with.
Years later when Kwan, Olivia, and Olivia’s estranged husband Simon end up visiting China, Olivia must decide whether Kwan really is crazy as she’d always thought, or if there really is something to the ghosts and former lives in Kwan’s stories.
Tan’s novel oscillates between attention-grabbing suspense and tedious background. There were times when I didn’t want to put the book down, and other times when it was a struggle to pick it back up. However, the premise is clever and the ending a bit of a surprise. While it’s not the best book I’ve ever read, it’s worth reading if you want something a little bit fluffy. It’s a good one to take with you on vacation.