Wow. I just finished this book and wanted to come write about it immediately so I don't forget how it made me feel. First off, the language is beautiful and so fitting for the context. The two girls--Snow Flower and Lily--have a friendship that is beautiful and is fun to pick out little pieces from my own childhood/current friendships that I recognize and adore.
My next thoughts are not necessarily critiques of the book, but of the way the Chinese thought: I had a real problem with hearing over and over how worthless a woman is if she cannot produce a son. If that were still the case, I would be as worthless as they come. It bothered me that daughters were considered better off if they died than to live. And I thought Lily perpetuated that as unfeeling as the patriarchs who instilled that thought process to begin with.
And don't get me started on footbinding. I know this is a cultural thing that I cannot begin to comprehend (such as people who still practice polygamy, I realize they see it happening in their families and think that is just the way life is, but still, how could they not think this through?) I mean, one of of ten girls died from footbinding. And not only does it make the foot look grotesque (which they thought was beautiful) but they were practically crippled for the rest of their lives. They had to be carried most distances after the age of six. It's simply ridiculous.
But reading this book made me want to learn to embroider. I know it sounds ridiculous but I was actually looking for embroidery classes in the area where I could learn how to do it. And I want to do it with my daughter. The visual of these women embroidering together. It's just beautiful.
There were so many beautiful quotes that I thought I'd list my favorites:
This thought is a real comfort to me: "Everyone knows that part of the spirit descends to the afterworld, while part of it remains with the family, but we have a special belief about the spirit of a young woman who has died before her marriage that goes contrary to this. She comes back to prey upon other unmarried girls--not to scare them but to take them to the afterworld with her so she might have company."
This is particarly interesting to me because after my daughter died, Biance would tell me about going to heaven with Miranda every night while she dreamed.
Another quote I liked about teachers:
"The classics tell us that, in relationships, the one between teacher and student comes second only to the one between parent and child."
The last one is a bit lengthy, but I like it nonetheless:
"If it is perfectly acceptable for a widow to disfigure herself or commit suicide to save face for her husband's family, why should a mother not be moved to extreme action by the loss of a child or children? We are their caretakers. We love them. We nurse them when they are sick. . . But no woman should live longer than her children. It is against the law of nature. If she does, why wouldn't she wish to leap from a cliff, hang from a branch, or swallow lye?"
Overall, this was a sad, beautiful book.