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 Book Club: The Kitchen God's Wife

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Eeveegou
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PostSubject: Book Club: The Kitchen God's Wife   Wed Jun 26, 2013 3:57 pm

Okay, so I wasn't sure the best way to go about starting the book club, so I started a different thread. On the original WGW bookclub thread, I said to have chapters 1-3 read by last week, but I think I will start us off by talking about the first two chapters instead (since there's a lot going on). I hadn't heard much as to who has the book yet, but I will go ahead and get us started with my thoughts on the first two chapters.

So, we know that the setting is in California as we hear LA, San Francisco, and San Diego... and we have a woman, Pearl, who is attending an engagement party for her cousin Bao Bao (Roger). I think there are two big things going on in these first two chapters. The first is establishing the relationship between Pearl, Phil (her husband), Pearl's mother (for all we know, her name is Winnie), Mary (Pearl's obnoxiously fake cousin), and Aunt Helen (Mary's mother). Much like The Joy Luck Club, the story seems to revolve around the history and tensions of a family that consists of Chinese immigrants and 1st generation Americans.

Secondly, and part of that family tension, we learn that Pearl is in remission with multiple sclerosis and has yet to tell her mother. Her mother, a very superstitious woman, seems difficult to talk to as she believes that when bad things happen, there is a certain amount of spiritual power a person can have over their fate... kind of in the form of cashing in on karma in exchange for luck. We also get a sense that Pearl's mother is a woman who has lived a life full of regrets, but doesn't realize that... and is doing meticulous rituals and/or coming up for a reason why (ie. trying to figure out why her husband died)

One thing I like about the book so far is how similar her family is to my own, particularly with my family in the south and the older generations... ESPECIALLY when it comes to familial duty and the tension that comes from familial secrets that cycle through the gossip chain. What are just some thoughts that people are having so far? Maybe some thoughts on the significance of the inherited alter with the Kitchen God's picture?
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Reepicheep-chan
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PostSubject: Re: Book Club: The Kitchen God's Wife   Mon Jul 01, 2013 9:10 am

Urgh, my copy has not come in the mail yet >.< Apparently I chose the 'mount it on the back of an unmotivated tortoise' shipping option because it is telling me to expect it between June 25 and July 11.
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bleachedblackcat
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PostSubject: Re: Book Club: The Kitchen God's Wife   Mon Jul 01, 2013 10:08 am

Did you get it off Amazon? I don't know what is up with them lately but books take a much longer time to arrive then they ever have before for me in the past.
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Reepicheep-chan
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PostSubject: Re: Book Club: The Kitchen God's Wife   Mon Jul 01, 2013 1:07 pm

Yeah, Amazon, normally it only takes like 5 days so idk what the deal is. I ordered in on the 18th so it have already been 2 weeks now :\
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PostSubject: Re: Book Club: The Kitchen God's Wife   Tue Jul 02, 2013 7:50 pm

It's totally fine. I actually wanted to get an idea of who has the book so far.
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PostSubject: Re: Book Club: The Kitchen God's Wife   Mon Jul 08, 2013 7:53 am

OK, I read the first two chapters. I am not really sure what to make of the whole kitchen god thing, although the kids referring to the shrine as a doll house was interesting. The whole 2nd/ 3rd generation of Chinese Americans moving away from their roots is something Amy Tan really likes to write about and it is all over this book even in the first couple chapters, for sure. I found it particularly crazy how Pearl does not actually know any Chinese. I will be interested to know more about her dad since she sort of mentions how he was some manner of Christian (was he Catholic? I cannot remember now) clergy and how her mother tried to follow his beliefs while he was alive but went back to her own after he died. I sort of wonder how much that factored into the disconnect between Pearl and her mom.

Also: jeez, MS, wow. MS is just so horrible. I would be a complete mess if I was diagnosed with MS. I mean, forget about being worried that you may loose the ability to walk, MS can fuck your ability to do friggin everything. Compared to loosing to coordination you need to feed yourself and talk in a cohesive manner, being in a wheelchair is nbd. Brr!

Hmm, I do not really have anything insightful to add right now, but I will go ahead and read the 3rd chapter.

Haha, also my mom heard me talking about reading this book and then she ran across another Amy Tan book at an estate sale and bought it for me. So that happened.
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PostSubject: Re: Book Club: The Kitchen God's Wife   Fri Jul 12, 2013 10:21 am

Reepi, I think maybe her old beliefs may have driven a wedge there... but it also seems like Winnie is seeing things very linearly in the first and second chapters which makes you wonder (I am assuming that you read chapter 3 already) if this woman cannot deal with problems in a productive way because she is uncomfortable with the grey areas.

What I think is interesting is that as you progress through the 3rd chapter, we get some of Winnie's history and her perspective on life: "from that day on, I began to look at everything in my life in two ways, the way it happened, the way it did not." (67-ish... the Kindle edition) She tries to trace a narrative through her life and find the forks in the road.

I like this chapter. I like this chapter a LOT. I was also on my period, crying, and reading an Amy Tan book. I have a tendency to dwell on "what ifs." From moments when I would swap career choices to what was and wasn't done days before that really shitty October in 2010 to prevent that really shitty October in 2010. I wonder if anyone else had made any personal connections with Winnie... she comes off very abrasive at first, but I think that the narrator shift has had a drastic impact on how I understand her now (and it's only been one chapter!!)

Finally, whenever I read something like this and have found a way for the author to exist within the confines of the book (in this situation Amy Tan is Pearl) I wonder to what extent the reader can trust the author's portrayal of the external characters in his/her life... Drawing attention to the "dedicated to" portion at the beginning of the book it goes "To my mother, Daisy Tan, and her happy memories of my father, John (1914-1968), and my brother Peter (1950-1967). With love and respect" I think it definitely sets the book up as a somewhat biographical piece. That being said, I wonder how Amy Tan came to understanding her mother at such a level as to write Winnie's narration. As I begin to make assumptions in regards to my own mom's motivations, intentions, feelings, etc. I know I have missed the mark on reading her attitudes and what she is thinking plenty of times. I suppose what I'm wonder is just how accurate a picture she is painting of her mother... and also if Daisy Tan has read any of her daughters books?
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