The Bonesetter’s Daughter
by Amy Tan
Amy Tan’s specialty is novels that deal with mother/daughter relationships with a cultural divide thrown in. Her books tend to focus on women born in America who struggle to relate to their Chinese mothers. The strain between the family members, exacerbated by being raised in very different cultures, makes for interesting plots though they can occasionally feel repetitive.
The Bonesetter’s Daughter is set in San Francisco and follows Ruth and her boyfriend Art through their relationship with flashbacks to Ruth’s childhood. Ruth’s relationship with her mother LuLing is the main focus. LuLing is beginning to show signs of dementia and as Ruth struggles to come to come to terms with this she begins to learn more about her mother’s life before America.
Midway through the book we hear Ruth’s mother’s story in her own voice. It’s a drastic shift in tone, but one that works well. The reader, as well as Ruth herself, need to understand LuLing’s background in order to understand why she acts the way she does.
I loved how the book dealt with the balance of regret and love that exists in most relationships. It explores the way our scars from childhood shape the people we become. Yet even as we see our past pain affect our decisions it helps to understand the history of the people you love. With understanding comes forgiveness, an essential element in improving any relationship.
BOTTOM LINE: A good story and a great reminder that our parents were people long before we were around. They made mistakes, they’ve been hurt and that hurt often has lasting effects that echo through their relationships with their children.
Pair with a marathon of mother/daughter movies where the main characters don’t see eye-to-eye. Start with Brave and move on to Steel Magnolias, then watch Amy Tan’s own Joy Luck Club. Get in a few laughs with Freaky Friday before watching The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood and finishing with Terms of Endearment.