Worthy of the acclaim given The Joy Luck Club, Tan's engrossing second novel about Chinese-American culture continues the author's intricate exploration of mother-daughter relationships, generational differences, and the key way secrets define them. Pearl, herself the mother of two girls, has not yet told her mother Winnie what she has known for a while--that she has multiple sclerosis (their relationship has been strained ever since Pearl's father died when she was 14). Aunt Helen, who knows Pearl's "secret," threatens to tell Pearl's mother if Pearl won't do it herself. Helen then makes the same threat to Winnie--reveal her secret past to her daughter or Helen will. So Winnie sits down and tells Pearl the story of her life before coming to America and before her marriage to the man Pearl thinks is her father--a life of hell spent with a deeply disturbed, sadistic first husband, Pearl's real father. It is a life that encapsulates a strong belief in fate and luck and, unfortunately, the oppressed role of women in Chinese culture--one that continually summons up the image of the title: a symbol of the wronged but ever-forgiving wife. In the sheer power of conveying Winnie's secret life in China, Tan once again demonstrates her truly gifted storytelling ability. (Pearl is a less interesting character, but then again so is life in contemporary California.) One can only admire Tan's talent for capturing and synthesizing the complex cultural dynamics at work here and turning them into such an intriguing, harrowing tale.