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Winnie continues to narrate the story as she recalls a conversation between herself and Helen. Helen had been talking about speaking to her daughter "long, long distance." It is during this conversation that she tells Winnie that she no longer has to hide because her first husband, Wen Fu has died. She has received this from an old friend named Betty Wan, Helen says, and then she proceeds to tell Winnie that there will be no more secrets and gives her the same reasons she had given Pearl (her brain tumor). Winnie is disconcerted by Helen's desire to expose her, and she argues with Helen, departing upset.
When she gets home, Winnie cleans her house during the entire night, trying to forget her conversation with Helen. The next day she goes into her children's old rooms. While in Pearl's room she finds a hidden and locked box. Winnie had given her daughter this box for her tenth birthday so that she could place her secrets inside. Upon opening it, Winnie finds the typical paraphernalia of a boy-crazed teenage girl, but she also finds a small card, a reminder of Pearl's father's funeral with many black marks crossing out the date on which he died. It is at this point that Winnie remembers the same anecdote told in an earlier chapter by Pearl. Pearl had not cried for her father, and it is not until now that Winnie realizes that Pearl had, in fact, loved and missed her father.
Winnie begins to think of all the things she would have to tell her daughter if she were going to unveil her secrets: that she had a first marriage and children that died from that first marriage; that she had survived a war; that Wen Fu is Pearl's real father, not Jimmy Louie. She decides that she will call her daughter and that she will tell her these things.
Pearl is at her mother's house. Winnie had called her over, telling her that she had a pain in her heart that is now better. Pearl is worried, until her mother begins to tell her story, claiming that the pain in her heart is the one she has always had. Winnie begins by telling the story of being abandoned by her mother as a little girl. Winnie says that her mother had been a modern, educated Shanghai woman—whose father was a scholar—and who had wanted to marry for love. Her plan to marry a Marxist named Lu was forbidden, and instead she was forced to marry Jiang, Winnie's father, to replace his second wife who had committed suicide. It is for this reason that Winnie recalls her mother staring at herself in the mirror, calling out "Double Second, Double Second." Winnie's father already had five wives who did not get along with Winnie's mother, and so she had always felt unhappy and trapped.
Winnie recalls the day before her mother left. It was a day in which her mother had taken her into the city to eat fish and American Sundaes and had taken her to the movies and on a walk around marketplaces and through city streets. Winnie remembers this vividly, also remembering that the next morning her mother was no longer there. It was a mysterious disappearance to her, never knowing what had actually happened to her mother—whether she had died or escaped—trying to put together the pieces of gossip that she could gather from her relatives.
After her mother left, Winnie's father sent her to live on Tsungming Island with his younger brother and his two wives, New Aunt and Old Aunt..
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The Kitchen God's Wife is the second novel by Chinese-American author, Amy Tan. First published in 1991, it deals extensively with Sino-American female identity and draws on the story of her mother's life.
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