Amy Tan is a master of character development and master story teller, and in her latest historical fiction novel, The Valley of Amazement, she takes these skills to new heights while bridging the gap between western and Asian culture, placing her in the realm of artists like Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Joyce, and Faulkner.
No author paints the psychological struggle between strong willed mother/daughter pairs better than Tan, and the story unfolds between a privileged Chinese-American girl, Violet, and her American mother, Lucia, who operates a first class courtesan house in old Shanghai during the fall of the Ching Dynasty. Lucia is cruelly deceived by one of her lovers and confidants who sells fourteen-year-old Violet to a second rate courtesan house as Lucia, thinking Violet is already on board, boards a ship for San Francisco to escape the political turmoil of the era.
The story covers both Violet and Lucia and examines their lives in minute detail, particularly focusing on the choices they make concerning their mothers and all the men in their lives.
Unlike her other novels, Tan fully develops the sexual nature of her main characters in this book, which adds to the psychological richness of the story. Her strongpoint is the creation of characters, so real, so believable, so human, that the reader will feel as if she knows these people—the mark of a great writer.
This is the pinnacle work of Amy Tan to date, and it is a journey all serious readers should take. Get a copy on Amazon.