"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
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.
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!
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.
Another excellent book about Chinese culture. This one is set in two worlds, one the world of Ruth Young in America in modern times and the other in the world of her mother, LuLing, back in China in the 1920 and 30's. LuLing now has Alzheimer's and Ruth discovers documents relating to her mother's past and tries to piece together the history of her family. Absolutely wonderful!
I got this book as a gift and initially doubted it and didn't want to read it but I'm so glad I did. It's an amazing story. It's so real that you can't help but feel whatever the characters are feeling. I really recommend it! It definetaly made me think twice about Tan's work.
Chinese historical fiction is still kind of a new genre for me. One I didn't think I would really get into, but I find that I really do enjoy these books. This one was really well written and sad. It's set in present day, but also in the past through reading her mother's history. The sad part, is, of course, that her mother appears to have Alzheimer's, which hits a little close to home. This book really does have it all, marital strife, dealing with older parents, etc etc. If you enjoyed The Joy Luck Club, you'll like this one. Heck, just read it. :)
A wonderful read detailing one woman's journey through life from pre-communist china through to near present times in CA. Enough detail to make you feel you are there, and to understand somewhat the culture. Also an exploration of the Mother / Daughter dynamic.
Rich characters, intense details, moving story. This is a excellent book to help you capture some of the secrets in China-the family lives, womens lives and how it all seems to work. A really good read.
"The Bonesetter's Daughter" is the story of a Chinese mother, Luling Young, and her American daughter Ruth. The story is set in 1999 San Francisco with a large flashback to Luling's girlhood in China. Adult daughter Ruth is trying to balance her own shaky relationship with boyfriend Art with the needs of her aging mother, who is showing signs of Alzheimer's Disease. As the story unfolds, Ruth finds out many secrets of her mother's life in China before she arrived in San Francisco. I loved the ending of this book, very touching.
Well written story, but not my favorite from Amy Tan. I enjoyed the story of the mother's past better than the current struggles of the antagonist. I would definitely recommend the book. It held my attention to the end. Beautiful depiction of the life in China before communism took over.
Ruth's life is anything but pleasant - she constantly worries, thinks she has issues when she doesn't. She lives with her S.O., Art, by choice (or so it seems) and generally walk on egg shells wherever she goes. Her biggest issue is her mother who is showing signs of dementia. The book is in two parts; the first part deals with Ruth and her life and I nearly stopped reading the book here because it was SO depressing! The second part is written by LuLing (Ruth's mother) that is a wonderful story about LuLing's life growing up in China. Ruth finds all the pages of her mother's writings when she decides to stay with her mother to determine what her mother needs and how badly her mother's memory has deteriorated. Part two is a journal really but great reading although a negative journey mostly. I doubt whether I would read another Amy Tan book just because it is such a downer.
This is Amy Tan in her prime. My favorite line from the book came from the Chinese/American mother regarding why she forced her daughter to cut her hair. She said, "long hair look like suicide maiden." Living in a crazy culture that reveres long, full tresses - we need this kind of cultural antidote. Now I laugh every time I think about. Thanks, Ms Tan.
This is a story of a Chinese American daugther who struggles to come to terms with her mother's onset of Alzheimer's disease. In the mother's house, the daugther finds papers writtin in Chinese. After having them interpreted, the daugther learns it is the story of her mother's life before coming to America. The story helps the daughter understand why her mother has the quirks and beliefs that she does. Suddenly all the "odd" things her mother had done in the past makes sense. This knowledge helps her to better understand and take care of her mother. Very heartwarming.
I love Amy Tan and this is one of her best works, in my opinion. This book chronicles the tortured, devoted relationship between LuLing Young and her daughter Ruth. A great glimpse into the relationsip between mothers and daughters.
I have read other Tan books and have thought that her "stories" were more truth than fiction. This book rambled. I read the entire book because I had faith that Tan could pull something out of nothing, but unfortunetly was let down. I found it a disjointed mess.
Tan once again explores the prickly, dificult love between a China-born mother and her American-born daughter, complete with secrets buried decades past. I was halfway through this book when I realized I'd already read it. Is that a good sign or bad? ;-)
I loved this book. The rich description and well spun story kept me intrigued. I was more interested in the mothers story, or flashbacks, rather than the modern thread. All together it made me really think about and cherish my relationships after this read.
Tan does it again with the Bonesetter's Daughter. She takes us through the lives of 3 generations of women, the oldest entirely in China, the youngest in the USA and the middle bridging both.
The story opens in the United States. The protagonist, Ruth, is a ghost writer unable to commit to her divorced-with-children boyfriend. She and her aged mother, LuLing, aren't as close as either might wish, but when Ruth's mother gives her a manuscript (written in Chinese) detailing LuLing's personal history, Ruth comes to a clearer understanding of just what makes mom tick.
The history of Ruth's mother and grandmother is revealed in the setting of 1920s China in the rural area where the bones of the Peking Man were discovered. As with The Joy Luck Club, the stories told are not all pleasant. There is a gritty realism to the histories that demands we respect and honor the trials gone through by the Chinese peasant women in their quests for love and a better life. American-born Ruth comes to see her mother in a new light even as Alzheimer disease dims LuLing's memories.
Another great read from Tan with fascinating characters in both eras.
From Publishers Weekly
In its rich character portrayals and sensitivity to the nuances of mother-daughter relationships, Tan's new novel is the real successor to, and equal of, The Joy Luck Club. This luminous and gripping book demonstrates enhanced tenderness and wisdom, however; it carries the texture of real life and reflects the paradoxes historical events can produce. Ruth Young is a 40-ish ghostwriter in San Francisco who periodically goes mute, a metaphorical indication of her inability to express her true feelings to the man she lives with, Art Kamen, a divorced father of two teenage daughters. Ruth's inability to talk is subtly echoed in the story of her mother LuLing's early life in China, which forms the long middle section of the novel. Overbearing, accusatory, darkly pessimistic, LuLing has always been a burden to Ruth. Now, at 77, she has Alzheimer's, but luckily she had recorded in a diary the extraordinary events of her childhood and youth in a small village in China during the years that included the discovery nearby of the bones of Peking Man, the Japanese invasion, the birth of the Republic and the rise of Communism. LuLing was raised by a nursemaid called Precious Auntie, the daughter of a famous bonesetter. Once beautiful, Precious Auntie's face was burned in a suicide attempt, her mouth sealed with scar tissue. When LuLing eventually learns the secrets of Precious Auntie's tragic life, she is engulfed by shame and guilt.
LuLing Young is getting old and-while she still can-she begins to write down her memories of life as a girl in 1930s China.
LuLing's intensely shocking and tragic story is all about lies and barriers in a culture where women are valued only as brides or sevants.
In memories that rise like wisps of ghosts, LuLing Young searches for the name of her mother, the daughter of the Famous Bonesetter from the Mouth of the Mountain. Trying to hold on to the evaporating past, she begins to write all that she can remember of her life as a girl in China. Meanwhile, her daughter Ruth, a ghostwriter for authors of self-help books, is losing the ability to speak up for herself in front of the man she lives with and his two teenage daughters. None of her professional sound bites and pat homilies works for her personal life; she knows only how to translate what others want to say.
Ruth starts suspecting that something is terribly wrong with her mother. As a child, Ruth had been constantly subjected to her mother's disturbing notions about curses and ghosts, and to her repeated threats to kill herself, and was even forced by her mother to try to communicate with ghosts. But now LuLing seems less argumentative, even happy, far from her usual disagreeable and dissatisfied self.
While tending to her ailing mother, Ruth discovers the pages LuLing wrote in Chinese, the story of her tumultuous and star-crossed life, and is transported to a backwoods village known as Immortal Heart. There she learns of secrets passed along by a mute nursemaid, Precious Auntie; of a cave where dragon bones are mined, some of which may prove to be the teeth of Peking Man; of the crumbling ravine known as the End of the World, where Precious Auntie's scattered bones lie, and of the curse that LuLing believes she released through betrayal.
At the beginning of Amy Tan's fourth novel, two packets of papers written in Chinese calligraphy fall into the hands of Ruth Young. One bundle is titled Things I Know Are True and the other, Things I Must Not Forget. The author? That would be the protagonist's mother, LuLing, who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. In these documents the elderly matriarch, born in China in 1916, has set down a record of her birth and family history, determined to keep the facts from vanishing as her mind deteriorates.
A San Francisco career woman who makes her living by ghostwriting self-help books, Ruth has little idea of her mother's past or true identity. What's more, their relationship has tended to be an angry one. Still, Ruth recognizes the onset of LuLing's decline--along with her own remorse over past rancor--and hires a translator to decipher the packets. She also resolves to "ask her mother to tell her about her life. For once, she would ask. She would listen. She would sit down and not be in a hurry or have anything else to do."
Amy Tan's The Bonesetter's Daughter is a wonderfully told story about three generations of women and a long standing curse on their family. A thoroughly enjoyable read. It brings a better understanding to the reader, of relationships between mothers and daughters who struggle to understand each other.
I love Amy Tan's portrayals of mother-daughter relationships and this is no exception. The conversations and descriptions of confrontation are so true to life. If you liked Joy Luck Club, you will like this one too.
Another great novel by Amy Tan. I collect her books. In this case, I had two copies of the same book! In The Bonsetter's Daughter, the main character Ruth is faced with the onset of Alzheimer's Disease in her mother. She begins to translate a chronicle of her mother's life in order to better understand her. It's an amazing story.
A wonderful Amy Tan book: almost epic. A current-day couple struggle to balance their own relationship with the pressures of step-children, and an aging parent. This connects with the parent's newly-revealed amazing true-life story in China, decades earlier. History and relationships
I very much enjoyed this book. The story is told from the daughter's point of view, the daughter of the Bonesetter's Daughter. We are in the present, being taken via story telling to the past. I loved the sense of pride, determination, and dignity of the LuLing Liu Young. And her, daughter, Ruth, learns something about herself as well as the story unfolds such that she is a better partner and stepmother.
Amy Tan has such a unique way of writing and because of it, the story just seems to flow. This si the story of a young girl and her nanny in China. Some great surprises and some sad revelations for the reader. Enjoy!
Yet another insightful and evocative narrative by Amy Tan. We gradually learn the story that haunts one daughter after another in an unusually unlucky family. The audio cassette version is well read. To me, this is another example of American magical realism...of a Chinese-American sub-category. Lovely book.
From Publishers Weekly
Tan's empathetic insight into the complex relationship of Chinese mothers and their American-born daughters is again displayed in her latest extraordinary, multi-layered tale. Now suffering from Alzheimer's, Lu Ling's references to the past are confusing and contradictory particularly her desperate attempts to communicate with her deceased Precious Auntie, who was her nursemaid and Ruth worries about her mother's health. But when Ruth translates Lu Ling's lengthy journal, she learns that her mother was once a strong-willed, courageous girl who overcame a background of family secrets and lies, persevered despite romantic heartbreak and survived tremendous hardships and suffering in war-torn China. Tan deftly handles narrative duties as Ruth, the exasperated but loving daughter, while Chen is perfect as the quick-speaking, accented Lu Ling. Lu Ling's first-person diary is particularly suited to audio: we hear the young girl directly reveal her secret hopes and dreams, and watch her grow from a naive innocent to a sharp-eyed survivor.
A woman of Chinese decent learning about the sordid family history involving her mother and grandmother living in China spanning times of peace in the late 1800s into the 20th century. Focusing on pain, curses and lies ultimately revealing a wonderful story about letting go of your past to move on to the future where happiness can be found unshackled by what has been.