Barbara’s Picks, Nov. 2013, Pt. 1: Amy Tan’s The Valley of Amazement

Tan, Amy. The Valley of Amazement. Ecco: HarperCollins. Nov. 2013. 608p. ISBN 9780062107312. $29.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062107336. LITERARY/HISTORICAL FICTION
Since the 1989 publication of Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club, an international best seller that has been translated into 35 languages, her works have strolled between the Chinese and American cultures, gracefully inhabiting them both. Here she strolls between two heroines as well: Lucia, who as a young woman from late 1800s San Francisco followed the Chinese painter she adored to his homeland, only to discover that for her East and West did not meet, and Lucia’s daughter, Violet. Lucia is working as mistress of the city’s classiest courtesan house when revolution descends on dusky 1905 Shanghai, and mother and daughter are separated in the madness. Forced to work as a “virgin courtesan,” Violet eventually becomes a smart businesswoman—but soon Shanghai will be occupied by the Japanese.

Tan blends the personal and the historical, showing us two women struggling to find themselves even as she presents vivid details of time and place that took years of research to get just right. Given the wait, it’s nice that the book is getting such a big burst of publicity. There’s a 750,000-copy first printing and a one-day laydown on November 5, and a 20-city author tour will take Tan to Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Nashville, New York City, Philadelphia, Portland (OR), San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, St. Louis, and Washington, DC. Tan will also be featured on LJ-sponsored Day of Dialog’s “Getting (Re)Acquainted with the Best Voices in Fiction Today.” Time for some amazement.

Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Prepub Alert; past chair of the Materials Selection Committee of the RUSA (Reference and User Services Assn.) division of the American Library Association; and past president, treasurer, and awards chair of the National Book Critics Circle.