"... Everything with mind and heart together, use hundred secret sense."
"What do you mean, secret sense?"
"How can I say? Memory, seeing, hearing, feeling, all come together, then you know something true in you heart. ... You use secret sense, sometimes can get message back and forth fast between two people, living, dead, doesn't matter, same sense." (p. 102)
The Hundred Secret Senses by Amy Tan begins as a story about two sisters but ends as a collage of stories about loyalty and love between people of the past and present. Olivia was quite young when her dad announces on his deathbed that he has a daughter that he left behind in China before he came to America. His dying wish is to have her join the family. Kwan arrives but is much different than Olivia expected. Kwan tells many secrets and stories of the past, many that include ghosts that Kwan sees with her yin eyes. Even as adults, Kwan continues to tell these stories to Olivia. When Olivia and her husband Simon's marriage begins to fall apart, they are offered an opportunity to travel to China. It's an opportunity that Kwan insists that the three of them accept so that she can return to her village. However, as events unfold, Olivia soon realizes that Kwan's secrets and stories have more truth to them than she ever expected.
Over the many years that Olivia spent with her half sister Kwan, she never learned to truly appreciate her sister or the love and loyalty that her sister showed her. She never understood the meaning behind her sister's continual story about Miss Banner that was told over the years. And she never understood why the yin world was so important to her sister. Olivia never appreciated or understood Kwan until they travelled to China.
I think Kwan intended to show me the world is not a place but the vastness of the soul. And the soul is nothing more than love, limitless, endless, all that moves us toward knowing what is true. I once thought love was supposed to be nothing but bliss. I now know it is also worry and grief, hope and trust. And believing in ghosts --- that's believing that love never dies. If people we love die, than they are lost only to our ordinary senses. If we remember, we can find them anytime with our hundred secret senses. "This a secret," I can still hear Kwan whispering. "Don't tell anyone. Promise, Libby-ah." (p. 358)
I have read Amy Tan in the past and was excited to read The Hundred Secret Senses. It was not the story I expected, but I definitely enjoyed the book and recommend it to others.