The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan

The Valley of AmazementAmy Tan has written another sweeping historical novel about Chinese relationships and culture. In The Valley of Amazement, Tan invites us into a world of courtesan life from early years to retirement during a politically charged China in the early twentieth century. With lyrical beauty and harsh reality, Tan traces the lives of American-born mother, Lulu Minturn, and her half Chinese daughter, Violet. And, because it is Amy Tan, it is really a story of the mother daughter relationships and their struggle to understand each other.

The book tells its tale through the many voices of its strong women characters. In the beginning we are introduced to young Violet, our main protagonist, as she watches her mother’s life, being the owner of a respectable courtesan establishment, implode. With unforeseen circumstances, she leaves Violet standing at the boat docks as she disappears from Violet’s life, presumably on her way to the United States without her, as Violet sees it. Violet is alone and must make her way using only her wits and her mother’s teachings, and unfortunately her body, to live. Courtesan Violet falls in love, has a child, and just as her mother was ripped from her life, her daughter is ripped away when Violet’s lover dies and his vindictive family kidnaps the baby girl. Everything now is taken from her: her baby, her money, her house, her freedom. So when she finds love again she believes that this man will save her and care for her. After all, he wants to make her his wife. He isn’t truthful, and probably crazy, and she finds herself in a remote village, tortured by the man’s number one wife. In this second part of the book, Violet tries to escape so she can find her daughter and eventually, her mother.

It is a journey of pain, murder, jealousy, misunderstandings, friendship, family, but finally love, the love of mothers and daughters.

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