Hundred Secret Senses (Tan) - Discussion Questions

Discussion Questions
Use our LitLovers Book Club Resources; they can help with discussions for any book:

How to Discuss a Book (helpful discussion tips)
Generic Discussion Questions—Fiction and Nonfiction
Read-Think-Talk (a guided reading chart)

Also consider these LitLovers talking points to help get a discussion started for A Hundred Secret Senses:

1. In what ways are the two half-sisters, Olivia and Kwan, different from one another? How would you describe their relationship? And how does each reflect the two cultures: traditional Chinese and 20th century American?

2. Discuss Kwan's belief in the workings of a supernatural world, especially the World of Yin. How does Kwan believe this world plays out in San Francisco in the 1990s?

3. What is happening in Simon and Olivia's marriage? Why does Kwan want Olivia and Simon to accompany her to China—what does she hope for, and why does the couple agree to go along?

4. Kwan resists a strong spiritual connection between herself and her sister. According to Olivia, "In spite of all our obvious differences, Kwan thinks she and I are exactly alike. As she sees it, we're connected by a cosmic Chinese umbilical cord that's given us the same inborn traits, personal motives, fate and luck." By the book's end, who is right—Olivia or Kwan?

5. Do enjoy the interjection of a ghost world in a realistic novel? Does Tan make this spiritual world palpable and believable...or do you find it strained?

6. What about Kwan's stories? Did you enjoy them—did they enrich the story for you? Or did you find yourself impatient, skipping over them to get back to the central plot?

7. Talk about the ways in which the taboos of race, class, and politics affect the fate of the doomed lovers, Yiban and Miss Banner.

8. What is the significance of the book's title? What are the hundred secret senses?

9. Do you feel you came away from Tan's book having learned more about China and its history?

10. Who changes—and in what ways—by the end of the book? Do you, as a reader, come to feel differently about any of the characters at the end?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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