What happens to Miss Banner in The Hundred Secret Senses by Amy Tan?

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Miss Banner eventually dies with her friend in the cave after discovering that her love, Yiban, has most likely perished. Armed with her precious music box, Nelly Banner is guided by her friend, who she calls Miss Moo, to the cave after surviving a brutal massacre at the Ghost Merchant’s House. They cannot find Yiban anywhere, and they know that the soldiers are approaching, so there is no escape. As this realization hits, Nelly says, “Please take my hand, Miss Moo . . . Don’t let go until we arrive.” We know the two die together, but the circumstances are a bit unclear.

Most likely, they did not die in the cave. We can surmise this because we know the two women have come back in the present life. We understand that Kwan and Olivia, two reunited sisters, have been reincarnated in the present life. Olivia does not remember her past life, so Kwan is telling Olivia the story. Olivia was Miss Banner, and Kwan was Miss Moo.

Olivia recalls a dream that has always plagued her—only now she considers that it may not have been a dream but a recollection. She tells Kwan she believes they were hanged.

Someone is squeezing my hand—Kwan, but I am surprised to see she is younger and has a patch over one eye. I’m about to say don’t let go, when the words are jerked from my mouth, and I soar into the sky. I feel a snap, and my fears fall back to earth as I continue to rush through the air . . . there is Kwan, still holding tight on to my hand.

Kwan scoffs at the idea, however, because “Back then, Manchu soldier don’t hang people. Take too much trouble. Also, no tree.” She admits she does not remember how they died because it happened so quickly.

In essence, Miss Banner dies, but she also lives—as Olivia now.

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