The Norman Transcript

N-town reviews

January 10, 2014

Book review: Amy Tan delivers a masterpiece with newest novel

NORMAN — Book: The Valley of Amazement (2013, Ecco/HarperCollins Publishers)

Author: Amy Tan

Why you should read: According the author, “The Valley of Amazement” took eight years to write, which brings truth to the saying, “slow and steady wins the race.” This epic, which spans over 40 years and highlights some of the most crucial moments in history, tells the story of two women and their interlaced destinies as they search for similar purposes on different paths. Tan, author of the renowned novel, “The Joy Luck Club,” has delivered another masterpiece that is sure to satisfy fans and entice newcomers to pick it up.

In the beginning, the year is 1905, and we are introduced to young Violet Minturn, the daughter of an American madam of the most popular courtesan house in Shanghai. Violet spends her time spying on the courtesans and playing with her unruly cat, wishing for any sign of affection from her mother. Seven years later, a man named Lu Shing comes to visit and an eavesdropping Violet sees a caring side of her mother she never thought possible, and learns that she is the man’s daughter. In a shocking turn, Violet, who now knows she is half Chinese, is left behind shortly after when her mother sets sail for San Francisco to see the brother Violet never knew she had.

From there, this story continues on a gut-wrenching journey through more than four decades, centering around three generations of women. The narrative takes on a dark, grittier side at times as the women encounter and endure the trials that come with societal pressures, relationships, and the pivotal historical moments seen through their eyes. “Valley of Amazement” is a wonderfully spun and memorable tale of strong women willing to take on whatever life throws at them. Tan’s pragmatic writing targets every emotion along the way, leading up to a heartfelt conclusion worthy of applause.

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