Amy Tan wrote The Kitchen God’s Wife about her mother, Daisy. Most of Winnie’s story in the novel is drawn from Daisy’s life, including the difficult life and marriage she left behind in pre-communist China. The presentation of Winnie’s story, as she tells her story to Pearl, is reminiscent of the oral tradition. Tan, like Pearl, had never given much thought to her mother’s life in China, and she was amazed at what she learned.
When Tan started on her second novel, she wanted to avoid rehashing material and ideas from her successful first novel, The Joy Luck Club. She sequestered herself with soothing music and incense, realizing that solitude was her surest path to the next novel. Although she tried numerous times to write about something different, the story in The Kitchen God’s Wife cried out to be told, and Tan realized that the pursuit of diversity was not a good reason to write about one topic over another. Her mother’s eagerness to have her story fictionalized was also a major influence.
And so, The Kitchen God’s Wife shares certain themes with The Joy Luck Club. Both portray strained relationships between immigrant mothers and their American daughters. The theme of alienation also appears in both works. Despite its similarities to the first novel, the second novel won applause from Tan’s readers and critics. Her novels contain a multitude of stories that converge into a cohesive work, and Tan is admired for her ability to move from the past to the present in her storytelling.