Review on: The Bonesetter’s Daughter by Amy Tan
The Bonesetter’s Daughter is a fascinating story that begins with an introduction of an American-Chinese woman living in Modern USA. The entire story basically tackles two things. The contradiction and merging together of 2 worlds and 2 cultures is one thing tackled throughout the story. It is about how one can keep to their culture and history without sacrificing the things that are happening to the world around us. Another thing present in the story is about remembering and giving importance to our culture and past, and knowing that it is a part of who makes us who we are today.
Ruth is a modern American-Chinese, born and raised in the US by her China-born superstitious mother. Her whole life, she has tried to separate herself from her overly-superstitious mother who has kept her from doing many things because of her beliefs and superstitions. Now, Ruth is a 30-40 year old adult and independent, but feels that something is lacking in her life. Her problems and confusion about how she is going about her life takes a turn for the worse when she finds out that her mom is suffering from an illness. The illness however leads Ruth to find an autobiography of her mother, written in Chinese, and before her mother’s illness took hold, which leads Ruth to find out the reasons behind why her mother acts the way she does.
Basically, the autobiography of her mother talks about her childhood in China, and how she grew up in a family that considered her as somewhat of an outsider. It also talks about her nursemaid who was actually her mother, the things her nursemaid taught to her as a child, how she endured life after getting kicked out of home, life in the monastery, eventually getting married, surviving through the Japanese invasion and eventually moving to the United States. Her mother’s autobiography teaches Ruth a lot about her history, her identity and how she was raised.
As with many Chinese books written by authors who have grown up away from China, I can honestly say that it does in some way reach out to me and touch me. What I love most about these kinds of books is that I can relate to the stories being told, about culture, history, adapting to one’s environment, and about our motherland. In some way, many Chinese who did not grow up in China, can in some way relate to stories like this, especially when one is away from home but in some way rooted in the beliefs and culture that comes with being brought up in the Chinese way. It tackles a very important aspect about one’s identity, which is an important aspect about being true to who we are.
An aspect I also like about the story is that it leads to an appreciation of oneself, and eventually gaining confidence in one’s ability and one’s worth. Probably, the one thing that may seem daunting in the book is that parts of the story drag on with the story-telling. The book tackles two stories, so parts of the story toggle between Ruth and her mother. Eventually though, the toggling of the stories gives us a perspective of the two women, who are different but in some way also very similar. A lovely story, touching and insightful.