There’s no doubt that Amy Tan is a great storyteller. There was a reason The Joy Luck Club was a bestseller and went on to become a popular film. However, I don’t think her books are as good as most people think. When I read The Joy Luck Club in high school, I did so because I figured a book that so many raved about must be phenomenal. I was disappointed, discovering that the hype had greatly exaggerated the book. I never saw the movie.
I didn’t intend to read The Valley of Amazement because of my previous experience with Amy Tan. I decided to give it a try because it takes place in Shanghai and I’ve been really missing the city since I left in September. The book is decidedly a well-told story, but I still have plenty of complaints about it.
To begin with, it’s tiresomely predictable. As in so many books that can be filed under the genre of “women’s fiction,” it’s the story of a woman who tries to make her life better and is foiled again and again…and again…and again. With every choice the protagonist makes, I could see the outcome before it happened. It’s a formula that’s been followed by plenty of authors in countless books.
Maybe Tan intends to create a bond between her characters and the reader in order to make the book more powerful, but I just found the cycle of hope and tragedy to be annoying and overly sentimental. If there’s any word that describes this kind of book the best, it’s exactly that – sentimental. The Valley of Amazement is hardly of higher value to me than something by Nicholas Sparks or Danielle Steele. I’m not going to make myself suffer through any more of her books.