Book Title: The Kitchen God's Wife
Author: Amy Tan
Themes: Mother/Daughter relationships, bad marriages, Chinese/American cultures
Styles worth noting: The point of view shifts--the first and last chapters are told from the daughter's POV, the rest of the book is told from the mother's POV. This is important because the mother's story impacts how the daughter sees her, which the reader can clearly tell from the daughter's chapters. The middle chapters are told as if the mother is talking to the daughter (ie, using second person).
What I learned from the book:
Even though you know the ending from the beginning--that the mother got away from her awful first husband, got to America, and married a nice man--the book still kept you on edge wondering how she got from an awful situation in China to a much better one in America. It's a good example of how you can still have tension and drama even if the reader knows how the story turns out.
The Kitchen God's Wife is also a good example of how using multiple points of view can switch the reader's sympathy--at first, the mom seems annoying and the reader sympathizes with the daughter (at least I did). But then as the mom is telling her story, you switch allegiances and sympathize with the mother.
Tan also makes the most of every detail she mentions--foods, decorations, clothes, etc. It seemed like just about anything she mentioned offhandedly on one page got brought up again later, in a meaningful way.
Have you read anything good lately, so good you learned a lot from it?