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The Bonesetter's Daughter

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  125,211 ratings  ·  3,636 reviews
Ruth Young and her widowed mother, LuLing, have always had a tumultuous relationship. Now, before she succumbs to forgetfulness, LuLing gives Ruth some of her writings, which reveal a side of LuLing that Ruth has never known. . . .

In a remote mountain village where ghosts and tradition rule, LuLing grows up in the care of her mute Precious Auntie as the family endures a cu
Paperback, 387 pages
Published February 4th 2003 by Ballantine Books (first published February 19th 2001)
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Average rating 3.98  · 
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 ·  125,211 ratings  ·  3,636 reviews

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Apr 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As an adolescent reader, Amy Tan used to be one of my favorite authors, yet, at the time, I did not appreciate the scope of her writing. One of my 2017 reading goals is to revisit authors I read during that time so as to fully enjoy their work. The Bonesetter's Daughter, an sweeping novel that takes a reader from California to prerevolutionary China and back again, is the second of Tan's books that I have read this year. A story featuring a strong mother-daughter connection that is emblematic of ...more
Nov 20, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Mom, Kristen, Celeste
Recommended to Amelia by: Diane and Susan
Amy Tan has a way of starting a story that's impossible to put down. For the first half of the book I kept wondering what about it made it so good. Anecdotal stories, relatable characters, Chinese folklore for interest ... these are all good, but I finally realized in the last quarter of the book why I liked it so much. Because it's a book about learning to love your past no matter how many scars it gives you, and learning to love and forgive your parents and ancestors, no matter what they may h ...more
Jan 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, 2017
Amy Tan's books are like a fine wine: they're meant to be savored, to get the maximum amount of enjoyment out of each drop (or word) on each page.

I have yet to read a book that's worthy of anything less than 5 stars. Knock on wood, let's hope it stays that way.

Ruth is a 46 year-old professional woman with a busy life of her own: she has a successful but demanding career, a live-in boyfriend with whom she has a complicated relationship, 2 step kids who are bratty (imho) for most of the book, and
Em Lost In Books
While I loved the LuLing's story I can't say the same about Ruth. I was fascinated by Luling's story and equally bored by Ruth's. I think I skipped few parts just to reach Luling's parts. It was beautifully written telling us about Chinese culture and story itself was mesmerizing. ...more
Sep 17, 2008 rated it really liked it
This is a chronicle of voicelessness across three generations of a Chinese family: it captures how these women lost their voices, why they continued to be voiceless, and how they attempted to reclaim their voice. Voice in this book is both literal and figurative: it's about standing up for oneself, speaking one's truth, being acknowledged, being understood, and not being censored. And the perpetrators who claim the women's voices can be cultural, personal (through the violation of one's secrets ...more
Apr 23, 2008 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: very patient people who are tolerant of meh characters.
This was the first Amy Tan book I read. This book wasn't specifically recommended, but the author was. I was expecting something magical to happen as I turned the pages, but I couldn't get past the first four or five chapters of the book. Besides the overly long sections of actionless description (the story stagnated because of a poor balance between backstory, scene setup and description, and actual let's-move-things-along plot), the main character Ruth is so weak and whiny that I couldn't empa ...more
Laura Anne
Mar 11, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this - very much in fact; and I was surprised because it's not my usual fare - I don't go for "Bestsellers". Tan splits the story into three sections told by mother and daughter - in first person, which works well. Ruth is second-generation Chinese/American, and her story comes first, set in 2009. She tells us about her very difficult relationship with her aging mother, Luling. The second part - set in Immortal Heart village, rural north China is Luling's story of her growing up, and t ...more
Jun 25, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4 - 4.5 stars.
Tan portrayed in a great way the cultural and language conflicts between migrant parents and their kids.
I also enjoyed the part of the book set in China from 1915 to 1950.
Connie G
Like The Joy Luck Club, this book is about relationships between mothers and daughters, and the importance of knowing each other's life stories. In the first part of the book, we meet Ruth, a first generation Chinese-American working as a ghostwriter for New Age self-help books in California. She has a hard time asserting herself in her ten-year relationship with her boyfriend. Her mother, LuLing, has been recently diagnosed with dementia, and can no longer live alone. LuLing is depressed, criti ...more
Daniel Clausen
Sep 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
I almost gave up on this book early on. I'm glad I didn't. While I didn't really care for the character of Ruth too much or her life in San Fransisco, the story of her mother LuLing really saved the book and turned the entire novel into a deeply affecting work. The middle act where LuLing is allowed to tell her story in her own words was the obvious high point of the book for me. ...more
Apr 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Holly by: My Mother
Shelves: amy-tan
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 min ...more
I just didn't enjoy this as much as Amy Tan's other books. Her plot development, with its mother-daughter issues, has become almost a formula. She does do a credible job describing life in China in the last century and I came away with a deeper understanding of that culture. I just never thought of Amy Tan as the Maeve Binchy of Asian writing. This is not meant to be a criticism of Maeve Binchy, an author whose well-written books I think are fun to read. It just is I get the impression that she ...more
Jul 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
I think that when Amy Tan is right on she is definitely right on. A few years ago I devoured every book she had written and still have all of her books on my bookshelf. I decided to re-read "The Bonesetter's Daughter" for my Booklikes-opoly square.

The "Bonesetter's Daughter"is told as a shifting narrative of a Chines American daughter (Ruth) trying to deal with her mother (LuLing) who is starting to lose her memory due to Alzheimer's. Ruth feels frustrated trying to deal with her mother and wit
Mar 21, 2010 rated it it was ok
Meaningless words are a mere group of letters. And if these words are weaved into a 350+ pages manuscript, the essential plot is misplaced between the evaporation of its characters. Tan exaggeratedly lengthens the stereotypical dilemma of two generations of women (mother- daughter) trying to find solace in a past laden with secrets and customs that mold cultural uprightness. Disappointing outcome to what might have been an admirable chronicle. ...more
Jul 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
I waffled between three and four on this. It was a great story. Wonderful plot. It didn't really have any slow spots. I just didn't feel like I cared about the characters as much as I should. In that way it felt a little Meh. ...more
aPriL does feral sometimes
'The Bonesetter's Daughter' reminded me of The Joy Luck Club quite a bit, but I liked 'The Joy Luck Club' better. 'The Joy Luck Club' seemed less domestic and Chick-lit than 'The Bonesetter's Daughter'. That said, 'The Bonesetter's Daughter' is an emotional domestic fiction and a deep Chick-lit dive into a relationship between a Chinese-American daughter and her Chinese mother.

The book is divided into three parts. Part one is narrated (third person) by Ruth Young about her American life. She ha
A great read! The mother-daughter relationships spanning over three generations was done so authentically it is hard to believe that Amy Tan was not there herself in each generation living those lives in all the different scenes/eras of the book.

"Things I must not forget" - is the first line of some Chinese writings which her mother handed to her and which she managed to translate.

Her mother, Luling, was in the early stages of Alzheimers, which forced Ruth (or Lootie as her mother pronounced he
Debbie Zapata
Dec 12, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dar
My edition of this book is actually the large print hardcover, which I discovered on my shelf and remembered that I was supposed to read and send it along to a friend. Since I have another book ready to send to her, I am glad I found this one before and not after a trip to the post office!

When I first started reading this story about the relationship between Ruth and her mother LuLing, I had the oddest feeling that I had read the book at sometime in the past. But as it turned out I had not, I wa
SheriC (PM)
Wonderfully moving story of mothers and daughters and how the way we learn to relate with our mothers can impact every other relationship we form in life. The characters grow and learn and change over the course of the story in a most satisfying way, although the author does come perilously close to an unrealistically (view spoiler) Alright, maybe she did it, but I enjoyed the journey so much that I didn’t mind it. I zoomed through this book in less tha ...more
May 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Ruth is part of the sandwich generation, trying to balance her live-in boyfriend and his daughters along with her increasingly more forgetful mother and a demanding job.

This was my first Amy Tan book and I found it to be riveting. I found Ruth's story much easier to follow. LuLung had a really difficult life and I found myself depressed.
Jan 11, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2008
Like most of Tan's books, this novel focuses on mother-daughter relationships extending over several generations. It is a tale of discovering the truth about our past and ourselves. Ruth's mother LuLing is suffering with the early stages of Alzheimer's and carefully writes down the "Things I Know Are True" and the "Things I Must Not Forget" - leaving them for her daughter to find. These are the vehicles through which Ruth discovers the secrets and truths hidden in her mother's past. This is a wo ...more
Mar 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
The Bonesetter's Daughter was a beautiful and complicated story about maternal lineage, Chinese culture and family bonds. An absolutely mesmerizing and heartwrenching tale that focuses on the lives of 3 generations of the well respected and famous bonesetter from a small Chinese village.

The author has a gift for creating a story rich in history and emotion. The plot spans from early 20th century to present day. It takes place in Peking, Hong Kong and North America.

This is a slower moving tale th
Hildred Billings
Jun 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
"The Bonesetter's Daughter" is the second to last Amy Tan novel I have yet to re-read, and like "Hundred Secret Senses," I realized I couldn't remember a dang thing about this book. "The Joy Luck Club" is all about switching POVs between eight characters, "The Kitchen God's Wife" is basically a super long version of one Joy Luck story (that is of course morbidly depressing half the time), and "Saving Fish From Drowning" is about a ghost following around and narrating about the lulziest tour grou ...more
Rebecca Huston
I really enjoyed this one, having wanted to read this one for years. Set in both pre-communist China and modern day California, telling the story of Ruth and her mother LuLing. It is not an easy relationship at all. LuLing is quarrelsome, manipulative, and has made Ruth's life hell for many years. Ruth tries to be understanding, but her mother is driving her crazy and when the doctors say that LuLing is sliding into dementia, Ruth's life turns upside down and leaving her to pick up the pieces. S ...more
Nandakishore Mridula
A first-generation immigrant is a special type of being. Her past is tied up to her country of origin - its myths, culture, legends and history - while her future is to be moulded into the alien land where she finds herself. And in the case of America, a land without a past (or a past which has been obliterated by the early white settlers), the past of the immigrant never fully goes away, because in this land bereft of myth where only the future matters, it is the only thing she has to hold on t ...more
2007 Rating: 2 Stars

2016 Rating: I’m very happy this one got selected for book club as it had been many years since I’d read this. I remember my original frustration was that I was much more used to Amy Tan’s work which is primarily set in the past. This book starts in the present day and remains centered there, even as the past is explored. Sadly, this present-focus remains less engaging for me than other works by Tan. I don’t need to love or even like the protagonist, but I also don’t want to
Nov 06, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is my third Amy Tan book. I have not read a novel from her in years and this book helped me to remember why she is one of my favorite authors. Amy Tan has a timeless writing style. That is the only way I can describe it. She doesn't write overly poetic or too simple. Amy Tan writes with a unique style that is perfect in every way. Her Chinese voice and American Chinese voice interchange with ease.
This book addresses mother-daughter relations and the complexes feelings involved. Ruthie is th
Shelleyrae at Book'd Out
Amy Tan has a way of getting inside mother daughter relationships that is startling. All of her novels explore the bond at both its best and worst. Part of what makes her stories so interesting is the clash of culture and of generational change which is so different to my own. The Bonesetters Daughter is probably the darkest of her novels, despite the (too) neat ending. The stories of the women are fascinating, though I had a hard time liking Ruth much which is probably unfair, I know all too we ...more
Abbie | ab_reads
3.5 stars - struggled to get into it for the first part but then I really started to enjoy it when it went more to the past!
Jude: The Epic Reader
First book of the 2021 Asian Read-a-thon done! I am really glad I started with this one; this has been on my shelves for quite a few years now and I don't know if I ever really planned to read it but I just decided to pick it up one day and I was instantly interested in it. This is my second Amy Tan book, I read The Joy Luck Club last year but I don't really remember my feelings about that one. ...more
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Amy Tan (Chinese: 譚恩美; pinyin: Tán Ēnměi; born February 19, 1952) is an American writer whose works explore mother-daughter relationships and what it means to grow up as a first generation Asian American. In 1993, Tan's adaptation of her most popular fiction work, The Joy Luck Club, became a commercially successful film.

She has written several other books, including The Kitchen God's Wife, The Hun

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