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MonkeyNotes-The Kitchen God's Wife by Amy Tan
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Chapter 5

Summary

Winnie asks Pearl to come to meet her by making the excuse of heart pain. After putting to rest Pearl’s concern for her health, Winnie says that her real pain is due to the burden of the piled-up secrets of her life. Winnie does not want Pearl to feel the way she had felt when her mother had suddenly left her without telling her anything about her real life. With this, Winnie begins unfolding the story about her life in her native land China and the circumstances leading to her migration to the U.S.

Winnie’s heart is filled with intense grief, when she longs for her mother who had left her all alone in the strange world. She reminisces that her early childhood was the most wonderful time in her life. The house in which her parents and she lived was no less than a palace itself. Being a six-year-old girl, her memories of those days are not very clear. But there are certain things, which Winnie can clearly recall about her mother, the person she loves more than anybody else in the world. She vividly recalls the shiny black hair, the firm hands of her mother. These impressions are the only ones with which Winnie can now relate with her.


Winnie tries to recollect her past when she was a pampered child - she would not even walk even though she was of six years. Her mother would take care of all her needs. The real Chinese name of Winnie, is Weili. Winnie remembers that the relationship between her mother and her father, Jiang Sao-yen is strained. There are two reasons for this. Primarily, her father Jiang Sao- yen has three other wives - San Ma, Wu Ma, and Sz Ma. Also, he was already quite old when he married Weili’s mother. On the other hand, Weili’s mother comes from a sophisticated, educated family. She is extremely beautiful and has refined manners. And more importantly, it seems that she is in love with a young man Lu, a revolutionary. Her mother had forced her to marry Jiang Sao-yen.

The strife between her Winnie’s parents widens with each passing day. One day, Weili’s mother takes her to an outing. Such trips were very rare in those days. Weili is very enthusiastic about the trip and keenly observes her mother who takes great care in grooming herself. That day for the first time Weili walks and her mother firmly tells her that from now on she would have to walk on her own. Their evening in Shanghai turns out to be very exciting. The new places and new people that she sees enchant Winnie. Winnie notices that her mother is carefree as a teenager, laughing and teasing people on the way, without feeling conscious of herself. Then they go for a movie where Weili’s mother sits next to a man who is a stranger to Weili. Weili is puzzled when her mother is friendly with him. It is only much later that Weili realizes that he must have been Lu, her mother’s lover, and that he could be the cause of Weili’s separation from her mother. Her mother teaches her a lot of new things that day, like counting and stitching. She gifts Weili a blue perfume bottle and tells her that in the years to come, Weili would inherit her priceless jewels.

After spending such a pleasant day with her mother, Weili is very shocked the next morning when she discovers that her mother has left her forever. Her father too does not care for her and is unwilling to look after her. Weili is sent to her Uncle’s place at Tsungming Island and she hears all sorts of gossips about her mother, but her tender heart still yearns for her mother.

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