"The Bonesetter's Daughter" like most of Amy Tan's novels center on the relationship between a mother and daughter. This story, however, has three generations represented separately as the granddaughter never met her grandmother.
"The Bonesetter's Daughter" is interesting from a historical glance. It takes place mostly in WWII era China. While the characters become well developed through backward glances, the book still feels under-developed to me.
I wasn't very impressed with this book. I thought that it could have been done better. The resolve just wasn't there for me. I did like the final message, but I thought that the 399 pages leading up to it were a long way to come for so short of an impartation to the reader. Read more at www.carriesclassics.com
Amy Tan is a wonderful story teller, even when she's telling the same one. So far, each of the books I've read have been about mother-daughter conflicts and that's what drives The Bonesetter's Daughter too. Some similar themes in the books include traditional Chinese mother vs Americanized Chinese daughter and the daughter lives with or is married to a non-Chinese partner. The backstories are always different, though, and make for a fascinating read. I'm always pulled in. In this story, LuLing--the mother--recognizes that she's losing her memory and writes down everything she can remember about her life. Her daughter Ruth has been very busy with her career and her family--boyfriend and his two daughters--and has had some bumps and rough spots along the road with her mother so she hasn't been visiting often. This crisis of health brings them back together, though, and Ruth learns about her mother's life and why she behaved the way she did. I loved the story and would recommend it to anyone!
This book is an excellent story about an AmeriAsian woman who has to find out about her mother's past and her history, before she truly knows who she is and can find true love and happiness. It is as good as The Joy Luck Club also written by Amy Tan.
Formulaic, yet addictive...
I almost feel bad criticizing this book for being overly formulaic when I actually enjoyed parts of it so much. Yes, this is typical Amy Tan fare, which includes mother-daughter angst, immigrant culture, and old Chinese family secrets dusted off and gradually exposed through some engrossing storytelling. The story shifts between present-day San Francisco where we follow Ruth Young and her struggles with her Chinese-born mother, LuLing, and pre-WW2 rural China where we are treated to sumptious descriptions of old customs and superstitions surrounding LuLing's family origins. As with Tan's other books, it is when she takes the reader back in time to China that the story really shines. When the plot returns to America, it almost feels like a complete let-down.
In present time, Ruth's mother, LuLing, suffers from dementia, and as a result she has written down her life story in Chinese for her daughter to read. Ruth, who is not fluent in written Mandarin, hires someone to translate the story, and it is through this translation we are treated to the memoirs of LuLing. The bonesetter is her grandfather, and the daughter actually refers to LuLing's real mother - or Precious Auntie as she is called. This tragic title character is at the center of the story both before and after her death, and the injustices done to her by her adversaries as well as her own family are heartwrenching. The dynamic between LuLing and her "sister" GaoLing is also well portrayed, and the sisterly jealousies as well as loyalties are well characterized. The family business aspects, caligraphy descriptions and the ink-producing process are fascinating to read.
All the superstitions and ghosts that envelope every character in China, however, are the most satisfying parts.
There are numerous subplots and transitory characters, both in China and in San Fransisco. There are the two American missionaries along with Sister Yu, who run the orphanage where LuLing spends several years both as student and teacher. There are the British mother and daughter and their talking parrot in Hong Kong where LiuLing as a maid learns English. There are the archeologists who are excavating the Peking Man - and the one who wins LuLing's heart. The subplot involving Dottie and Lance from Ruth's childhood, however, albeit interesting, seemed to fizzle out without a proper conclusion.
Finally, the main male characters in the story were quite one-dimensional (saintly or evil) - but this is rather typical in Tan's writing.
The end is too contrived in its desperate attempt to provide some sort of closure between everyone. Also, the translator's role becomes a bit too sentimental. You leave the book wishing to read more about China, which is actually a good feeling.
All in all, this is a comforting hammock read without profound implications.
The Bonesetter's Daughter is a wonderful example of Amy Tan's considerable skill as a master storyteller. Here she exposes to us, layer by layer, the deeply complex relationship between Ruth Young, a ghostwriter of self-help books, and her mother, LuLing.
Realizing she is having problems with her memory long before Ruth suspects it, Luling painstakingly writes the facts of her life as best she remembers it, so that her story doesn't die with her failing memory.
The start and finish of this novel, which chronicles Ruth's struggle in coming to terms with her mother througout her life and Ruth's stumbling upon LuLing's memoirs, frame the middle section of the book, which consist of the memoirs themselves.