Cyndy Aleo's Reviews > The Bonesetter's Daughter

The Bonesetter's Daughter by Amy Tan
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Jan 03, 15

bookshelves: women-s-fiction, diverse

A long-time fan of Amy Tan's writing, I was recently going through some of my books to determine which could be released in my BookCrossing.com releases when I can upon The Bonesetter's Daughter. I immediately sat down to reread it in order to determine whether it might be a helpful read for my mother, whose relationship with her own mother has several parallels with this book.

::: The Plot :::

For those unfamiliar with Amy Tan's writing, her books usually center on family relationships between a Chinese-American daughter (or daughters) and her immigrant Chinese mother. In The Bonesetter's Daughter, our narrator is Ruth, who has been raised by her superstitious and often depressed mother LuLing. Ruth's father died when she was a toddler, and the two have a complex relationship that is changed irrevocably when Ruth's mother is diagnosed with dementia.

Ruth has a complicated life of her own even before her mother's diagnosis. She lives with a man who has never asked her to marry him, and he shares custody of his two adolescent daughter. After a very confusing visit with LuLing to the doctor, Ruth finds a translator for the pages of writing that her mother gave her months before, and so discovers the truths of her mother's life, a story Ruth hadn't ever known.

While Ruth learns about herself and her mother through LuLing's story as well as her disease, she also works through her long-term relationship with her boyfriend, as well as her mother's history with LuLing's sister.

::: Universal Truths :::

I actually read The Bonesetter's Daughter quite some time ago. Little did I know at the time that my mother's own mother would begin to show the same signs as LuLing, and my mother's relationship with her mother has many complications, much as Ruth's with LuLing had.

Even without that parallel, The Bonesetter's Daughter is a story of mothers and daughters across two generations, and the themes are universal: the struggle of an adolescent daughter to separate herself from her mother, and the struggle of an adult daughter to reconcile herself with her mother as a separate person, while also resolving the adolescent relationship that many mothers and daughters seem to continue.

At times, the reader feels almost bludgeoned with the idea that you have to resolve your relationship with your mother before it is too late, both in Ruth's relationship with LuLing only being worked on once she realizes her mother is in the throes of dementia, and in LuLing's relationship with her own mother left forever unresolved after her death.

However, Tan's ability to take her own relationship with her mother (who died of Alzheimer's) and put it into the pages of this story give the characters a reality that is felt by the reader, and prevents the story from becoming the fable that it could have become.

::: Overall :::

Any fan of Amy Tan's writing will enjoy The Bonesetter's Daughter, but I also think that any daughter, or any mother, will find bits and pieces of her own life in this book.
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