The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan
This book takes the reader on an epic journey to the Courtesan houses of turn of the Century Shanghai to a hidden away Chinese mountain village, to nineteenth century San Francisco covering 50 years in the lives of a mother and daughter torn apart by a series of unusual events. Half Chinese Violet Minturn is separated from her mother by a twist of fate and sold as a virgin courtesan to the Hall of Tranquilly, a famed courtesan house. Violet finds love with an American in Shanghai, has a child, and then is widowed during a break out of the Blue Disease. Because she was not legally married her child was taken by the family of the American leaving her bereft. Violet's attempt to improve her life leads her to a meager existence in a Chinese mountain village as wife number 3 to abusive and crazed husband posing as a Poet. Ever resourceful, Violet joins forces with the other wives and manages to narrowly escape this situation through wit, strength, and a refusal to be overcome. At this point we go back in time to explore the story of Lucia Minturn, Violet's mother whose actions begin the thread of events that span the 50 year time period the story covers. The Valley of Amazement could be a page turner, but the prose and story lines are so intricate and involving that the reader must slow down a savor each page. Not to be missed for long time Amy Tan fans and those new to her storytelling skills.
Reviewed by Karen