Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Bonesetter's Daughter

by Amy Tan

This is the story of mothers and daughters, of China and America. Amy Tan brings these conflicts of generation and culture to life in her characters, Precious Auntie, LuLing and Ruth. The first half of the book introduces Ruth, the American born daughter of her Chinese immigrant mother Luling as Luling is quickly deteriorating into dementia. Through this we learn of Ruth's childhood and her frustrations growing up with a mother who failed to learn much English and required Ruth to be liaison between herself and her dead mother.

In the second half of The Bonesetter's Daughter, Ruth learns about Luling's childhood through her mother's narrative of growing up in a small Chinese village as the bastard child of the daughter of the town bonesetter. This account gives Ruth a better understanding of her mother's behavior and helps repair their shaky relationship.

Tan very eloquently weaves into this story many nuances of Chinese culture and beliefs, especially ghosts, good luck charms, bad fortune and curses. She reminds readers to value our mothers and treasure that relationship. She also reinforces the importance of communication in bridging an understanding between mother and daughter.

I would have liked to see the story go into a bit more detail about the dementia. I also think the end was just a bit too tidy, but overall I liked the book and the message. I think this can be counted for the reading challenge of a book with life stage in the title.

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