on July 31, 2003
I admit that I had some difficulty getting into this book. Part of my struggle has to do with the fact that my own mother is in a nursing home suffering from senile dementia. Reading the first section of Ms. Tan's book was like reliving the process of accepting my mother's deteriorating condition, and then making difficult decisions on my mother's behalf. In this first section Ruth, a Chinese-American book editor who lives with, but is not married to Art, discovers that her mother has Alzheimer's Disease. Because of her concerns about her unmarried status (fueled by her mother's disapproval), as well as her need to deal with her mother's health, she is forced to make some major decisions about her own relationships.
Aside from my own issues, I felt that the first section of the book was merely a "set up" for the second section. This part, which tells the history of Ruth's mother, takes place in China and is fascinating. I was particularly impressed by Tan's description of the culture and spirituality of Chinese writing. She describes how the caligrapher does not simply put pen to paper and draw characters; drawing begins as a process within, travels down the arm and into the fingers and then onto the paper. I loved the names of places and people--a Village called Immortal Heart, the name, Precious Auntie (the bonesetter's daughter). Ms. Tan weaves some 20th Century Chinese history into this section of the book, and we see ordinary Chinese people as victims of invading Japanese soldiers as well as Mao's Communists (a must read for a view of 20th Century Chinese history is the novel, The Wild Swan).
The third section answers some lingering questions about the bonesetter's daughter and her family. It also resolves the situation between Ruth and Art, and Ruth and her mother. Ruth is able to place her mother in a very expensive assisted living home (primarily through the funding of her estranged lover), and despite misgivings about her mother's acceptance of her new living conditions, all goes smoothly. (Trust me, putting your mother into a final living situation is never smooth). The mother even finds a love interest, which Ruth feels improves her Alzheimer's symptoms (please!). We learn all the family secrets, Ruth goes back to her man, and the book ends a tad too "happily ever after".
on October 2, 2002
Having read all of her previous writings, I was disappointed when I finished reading 'The Bonesetter's Daughter." Like a Harlequin romance, Amy Tan's latest novel delivers a reliable, albeit formulaic story, that is well told.
The novel is clearly written, in large parts, the dialogue is sharp, funny and brilliantly recalls my own set of 'aunties' and their various ailments. But the tale has less of a punch after reading her other stories. In fact, the plot line is not nearly as evolved as a Hundred Secret Senses. In this book, we encounter two main characters, (whom, I felt, had been directly copied out of the Joy Luck Club), Ruth, a ghostwriter and her mother, LuLing. Specifically, the novel discusses Luling's past, which includes the discovery of the Peking Man and her harrowing struggle through adulthood in China, as much as the story reveals Ruth's ordeal in balancing her own family, self-employment and her mother's rapidly declining mental state.
Other reviews have made much of the interaction between Ruth and Luling. As much as Amy has vividly documented the struggle between Ruth and Luling, this relationship is similar to all the previous mother-daughter relationships in her book and it seems that this is the only type of relationship that Amy writes about, a 'lost and wandering daughter', the 'sharp-tongued' mother' and their 'fraught with tension but loving' relationship.
What reviewers have failed to mention are Amy's observations of society, class, and the struggle by females in a society with they are viewed with much contempt. Luling's story is much more interesting based on the drama within her nuclear family and their struggle in/out of poverty.
Don't read this book for the mother-daughter relationship, read it to understand about the grinding poverty and the Confucian dictates on behaviour and their impact on lower-middle class in China.
on June 30, 2002
The Bonesetter's Daughter is about two women: Ruth, a San Franciscan woman living with her 'boyfriend' of nearly a decade and his daughters, and Ruth's mother, who has Alzheimer's. Ruth's mother has written her troubled past for her daughter to read, ultimantly bringing them closer together.
The begining of The Bonesetter's Daughter was great: Tan created memerable charachters and realistic relationships. But, when the middle began, I slowly began to loose my interest. Though she is a master at weaving plots, this time, I was just anxious for Tan to get back to talking about Ruth instead of her mother. Unfortunantly, the ending wasn't as good as I'd hoped. Everything just comes together quickly, and it leaves the reader dissatisfied: charachters that they had come to know suddenly change and do things that readers have come to believe that they wouldn't. Tan tried too hard for a happy ending, when there really shouldn't have been one, and tried to redeem charachters whom, it seemed, that earlier she had put down. I am a big fan of Amy Tan, but this isn't her best work.
on May 6, 2002
Bonesetter's Daughter was recently lent to me by a good friend. It was my first Amy Tan novel, so I thought it was really going to be good--Tan is on many school booklists and her books are considered classics; however, I was fairly disappointed with this book.
This book had unbelievable potential. There was the story of Ruth--a Chinese-American, middle-aged woman who had "issues" with her Chinese mother and American boyfriend. Ruth's story, however, wasn't the "main" story. There was the story of LuLing, Ruth's mother, who grew up in China in a fairly wealthy family with a somewhat dark past and who struggled to enter the United States. LuLing had "issues" with her "Mother," sister GaoLing, and "Precious Auntie."
I honestly enjoyed LuLing's story. It was very dramatic, heartbreaking, and all the page-turning parts of the book were associated with this tale. I did not understand how important Ruth's story was supposed to be. I guess she was supposed to be there to show how protective LuLing was of her past, and to show how LuLing physically and mentally declined as the years went by. I also didn't like Ruth's story because it never really seemed to "go anywhere." At the beginning of the book she had huge problems with her mother and her significant other. At the end of the book, while she had a deeper respect for her mother, she still had problems with her and never stopped having problems with the significant other--though at the end I think Tan tried to patch them up.
Overall, this book was an OK read. It wasn't "boring" or hard to read, but I think the two plots lines could've overlapped more, and I think that Ruth's story particularly should've had more substance. I would not buy this book, but would check it out of the library just for fun.
on February 18, 2002
As a fan of Amy Tan, I was expecting yet another great work of art, like "The Joy Luck Club" and "The Kitchen God's Daughter." But what I got ... was a sometimes less than entertaining book that could not hold my attention.
The book opens abruptly, and kept my attention for maybe fifty pages. Then it started to lag. ... I enjoyed the story of Ruth Young. I didn't find it totally lackluster, although it was a bit dull around the edges. It concentrates on Ruth's past and her mother, as well as her problems with her live-in boyfriend, Art. Overall it was sometimes interesting, sometimes lifeless. Even so, I was a little sorry when Part One ended to give way to Part Two, the story of Ruth's mother.
The middle section of the book (Part 2) was extremely boring. It took me two days just to get through the first ten pages of the second part. But I finally sat myself down and forced myself to read.. and was surprised when I found that it was much more interesting as it went on. But nearing the end of the second part, one would think that Amy Tan lost all motivation to write and her spark, as it fades away into nothingness. It ends on a boring, tedious, and dull note.
Part Three is hardly much better. I felt more like I was obligated to finish this book than I was reading it just for the sheer pleasure. It is even more lackluster than its previous two parts, and ends in the familiar Tan fashion-- another happy ending.
All in all, "The Bonesetter's Daughter" is typical Amy Tan style-- a book about a first-generation Chinese daughter brought up by her old-fashioned mother from China with a dark, difficult past that helps the daughter to realize how much she loves her mother when she sees the hardships she had to overcome. If you really want to read this book, I recommed you buy a paperback if you're feeling incredibly generous and feel like you should waste money on something not worth half its price. Otherwise, borrow it from the library or a friend. I'm sure that they won't mind parting with it.
on December 25, 2001
Though this book is heavily based on the fact that Ruth Young's mother is Chinese in background, and much of the book takes place in Ancient China, where superstition rules and destiny is pre-ordained, the book still manages to take an intimate look at the relationship between mothers and daughters. Ruth Young is a ghostwriter for self-help books, fairly successful, when she comes upon a diary of her mother's written in Chinese. Her mother had given it to her some time ago, and now Ruth, learning her mother has Alzheimers, is filled with guilt for never having read it. Determined to have the journal translated, Ruth Young learns much more than she bargained for, and in the process comes to love and understand her mother more than she ever thought possible. It is a heartwarming story, and the ragged descriptions of LiuLing (Ruth's mother), her sister Gaoling, the horribly scarred Precious Auntie, and Peking Man will transport your mind to the time and place in ancient China when it all happened. Though warm and interesting, I did find the story colorful but somehow flat. It was not the kind of book that I couldn't wait to get to the next page, and I think that was because it needed more emotion. It makes a solid read and will interest you, but just doesn't make a bestseller for me.
on December 3, 2001
This book left me with mixed emotions. I have to say the story is good, and if developed properly it would have been a fantastic read, but, it is not very well developed, it is very slow at some points, too fast at others, and it sort of felt like homework.
The book is divided into three parts. The 1st part is basically about childhood and teenage memories of the daughter. You end up thinking the mother is totally mad and belongs in a nut house!
The second part (the best by far) is the life of the mother in China at the turn of the century. This part was nice because it gives the reader a pretty good idea of what life was like, the traditions, the beliefs, the hidden emotions and the fears of normal people; but it tells a very sad story.
Finally the third part is again, the daughter, who, after reading about her mother's life finds out she really loves her, and forgives her, and well... a fairytale ending.
In my opinion the book was very descriptive in the first two parts and then it went into a very quick and short, extremelly nice and unbelievable ending.
The life of Ruth, the daugther, seems very hollow and unimportant after reading the mother's, and the characters are very black and white, not very realistic.
If you really want to read it, I would recommend burrowing it from someone, or reading it at the library.
on July 30, 2001
I have mixed feelings about this book. I found the beginning part of the novel (present day San Francisco) to be very slow, uncompelling, with unsympathetic characters. I put this book down several times and picked up others books to read instead. The only thread that captured my interest in the first section was the vividly drawn tension and obvious frustrations between Ruth and her mother LuLing. That said, as soon as I hit the second section (LuLing's childhood/adolescence/marriage in China), I couldn't put the book down. Tan's storytelling giftedness shines in this middle section - finely drawn characters, action, landscape, rich history and culture, myths and superstition galore. Kudos to Ms. Tan - this middle section is writing at its best! And then I hit the end (back to present day SanFran) - big bummer. The saving grace for the reader of this last section is being able to watch Ruth's understanding/respect/love of LuLing expand and deepen.
So there - in a nutshell, I didn't like it. Then I really really liked it. Then I didn't like it.
on May 28, 2001
I myself am a Chinese-American who is striving to someday being a writer. Although I may be young and probably am not anymore Chinese than any other American in this country, I can say one thing about Amy Tan's writing. Her writing style is simple, something anyone can read. Some people might consider the conventionals utterly horrible, yet she has the talent and ability to keep you hooked throughout each page. I am not, however, deeply impressed. Every single book I have read (Kitchen God's Wife, Joy Luck Club, and the Bonsetter's Daughter) were all about the same thing. It was the same comment about Mother-Daughter Relationships, always a story about the mother's life back in China, and how the American born Chinese always marries the White guy and finds "her true culture" through her mother's stories.
In reality, even I can tell that she makes up her own ...about Chinese people in her books. From the way she takes account of the mothers in every book it is obvious that she doesn't know as much about Chinese culture as she thinks.
Overall, I think she's only okay as a writer. This book was just the same as any other book, and although it was an improvement and relatively interesting, I don't think she has come up with anything new. I think there are a handful of other Chinese-American authors who should have gained just as much or more recognition for their writing if someone like Amy Tan could!
I respect her work, but I also think she needs to find new inspiration and new insight. Although I liked the aspect of having a Bonsetter's Daughter, showing the hardships women had back then, the system of concubines and wives, there's so much more about the Chinese culture than just the same old things.
on May 21, 2001
I am a fan of Amy Tan and have read all her previous works. I heard about her new book "The Bonesetter's daughter" long before its publication and was eager to read it. Unfortunately, after reading it, I feel let down. In part one of this book, the author describes the cultural conflict between an eccentric Chinese immigrant woman and her American-born daughter in great detail. (This has been a recurrent theme in her previous books.) The fact that the mother's eccentricity is currently aggravated by Alzheimer's disease makes the narrative more dramatic, but not interesting enough to fill 149 pages. The second part of the book is about the family's past. I found the subject matter uniquely interesting, the story-telling captivating and the writing characteristically fluid. But for me, a person born and raised in China and educated in the States, the book does not describe a China that I am familiar with. Ms. Tan's China is overflowing with quirky Chinese sayings and bizarre superstitions. The book contains truthful facts about Chinese culture and histroy, but they tend to be exaggerated and so intertwined with fantasies as to make it all seem fictional. While Ms. Tan's approach to the subject matter is interesting and highly successful, I prefer to read books that impart a strong sense of reality. In " The bonesetter's daughter", I didn't feel I was reading the story of real people in a real world, but rather I felt I was in a fantasy, like an Anne Rice Vampire novel or a Harry Potter book. For me, reading this book was like watching a beautiful woman put on heavy make-up and strange costume; it spoils her true beauty, and, in the end, seems unnecessay.