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The bonesetter's daughter by Amy Tan

The bonesetter's daughter (original 2001; edition 2001)

by Amy Tan

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6,08988675 (3.75)120
Title:The bonesetter's daughter
Authors:Amy Tan
Info:New York : Ballantine Books, 2002, c2001.
Collections:Your library

Work details

The Bonesetter's Daughter by Amy Tan (2001)

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    BookshelfMonstrosity: The Bonesetter's Daughter depicts a contemporary Chinese-American woman who learns about her immigrant mother's past, while Songs of Willow Frost portrays a Chinese-American actress during the Great Depression. Both atmospheric novels explore the social and economic marginalization of women.… (more)

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English (83)  Spanish (2)  Catalan (1)  French (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (88)
Showing 1-5 of 83 (next | show all)
I feel like I can't really be objective about this book. I just love Amy Tan too much as a writer. I have loved every book of hers and can never find anything bad to say about them.

I loved all the characters in this book, and felt they were well written and 3 dimensional. I hated the main character's (Ruth Young) husband and step children. They were needlessly mean and She could have done way better for herself. At the same time, they were well written.

These books take me longer to read because I really like the world I'm dropped in and like to take my time. A great book, with a great story! ( )
  Sarah_Buckley | Sep 17, 2016 |
Although I enjoyed this I didn't think it was as good as 'The Kitchen God's Wife' ( )
  GeneHunter | Mar 13, 2016 |

Ruth is a self-sufficient woman who makes her living as a ghostwriter for self-help books. She lives with her long-term boyfriend, Art Kamen, and acts as a stepmother to Art's two teenage daughters, Dory and Fia, from a previous marriage. Meanwhile LuLing is showing signs of dementia, Ruth struggles to juggle her mother's illness, her job as well as her relationship. As an adult, Ruth struggles to understand her mother and her strange behavior during Ruth's childhood. Although she loves her mother, she also resents her for criticizing her harshly when she was young and forcing her to obey strict rules. LuLing also believed that young Ruth had the ability to communicate with the spirit world, and often expected her to produce messages from the ghost of LuLing's long dead nursemaid, Precious Auntie, by writing on a sand tray.

LuLing's autobiography makes up the middle section of the book. This story within a story describes LuLing's early life in a small Chinese village called Immortal Heart. LuLing is raised by a mute, burned nursemaid called "Precious Auntie." It is later revealed that Precious Auntie sustained her injuries by swallowing burning ink resin. Although the oldest daughter in her family, LuLing is ignored by her mother in favor of her younger sister GaoLing. However, Precious Auntie was entirely devoted to caring for LuLing. LuLing's story goes further back, describing Precious Auntie's childhood as the daughter of a local bonesetter. The teen-aged Precious Auntie is the only person who knows the location of a hidden cave where many ancient "dragon bones" can be found, knowledge that she retains even after being burned and coming to live with LuLing's family. After the discovery of the Peking Man, fossilized bones and information about where they might be found becomes extremely valuable. A local family, the Changs, wish to arrange a marriage between LuLing and their son Fu Nan because they believe that LuLing can lead them to the fossil cave. LuLing's family approves of the marriage, but Precious Auntie violently opposes it. Unable to speak in detail, she writes LuLing a long letter explaining her reasons, but LuLing does not read it to its end.

Only after Precious Auntie's death does LuLing learn that her nursemaid is actually her mother, and that the woman she had thought to be her mother is actually her father's sister. After Precious Auntie's death, GaoLing marries Fu Nan and LuLing is sent away to a Christian orphanage where she completes her education, grows up and becomes a teacher. Here, she meets her first husband, Pan Kai Jing. LuLing lives in the orphanage as a teacher through World War II, often going to extreme lengths to protect the students from the Japanese soldiers and other dangers. A few years later she is reunited with GaoLing. The two "sisters" immigrate to America separately and marry a pair of brothers, Edmund and Edwin. LuLing's second husband dies from a hit and run accident when Ruth is two years old.

Ruth struggles growing up as the child of a single parent who believes in curses. Once Ruth learns the details of her mother's past, she gains a new understanding of her and her seemingly erratic behavior. Answers to both women's problems unfold as LuLing's story is finally revealed in its entirety. ( )
  bostonwendym | Mar 3, 2016 |
A very good book. Tan writes so well about the struggle between mothers and daughters to love and accept one another. She frequently deals, too, with mother's attempts to shield and protect daughter from her pains - as if hiding a dreadful past will keep the daughter safe from her own heartaches. Here, the mother's Alzheimer's adds another dimension. ( )
  BookConcierge | Feb 9, 2016 |
Really a 2.5 for me. My first Amy Tan, and I feel a bit guilty that I did not appreciate it more given how well regarded she is. I found the first part, set in the present, to be way too long for me, I didn't feel as though I cared much for Ruth and Art and their relationship. And I get this is about relationships, all about relationships. The part set in China was more engaging, but not overwhelmingly so. Part three back in the present was better than part one. Overall though, it did not engage me emotionally. ( )
  MaureenCean | Feb 2, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 83 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (37 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Amy Tanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Abelsen, PeterTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Alfsen, MereteTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Chen, JoanNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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On the last day that my mother spent on earth, I learned her real name, as well at that of my grandmother. This book is dedicated to them. Li Bingzi and Gu Jingmei
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These are the things I know are true:
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Synopsis for the Dutch edition:
"Wat zou er nog meer in het binnenste van de leunstoel liggen? Ze tastte rond en vond een pakket van bruin inpakpapier, omwonden met een rood kerstlint. Er zat een stapel papier in, met Chinese tekst. Sommige vellen hadden bovenaan een zwierig gekalligrafeerd karakter. Dit had ze al eens eerder gezien. Maar waar?' Als Ruth het huis van haar moeder opruimt, vindt ze een manuscript onder de zitting van een oude stoel. Haar moeder heeft nooit iets losgelaten over haar Chinese verleden, over haar voorouders en over de reden van haar plotselinge vertrek naar Amerika. Maar nu blijkt Ruth het zorgvuldig opgetekende levensverhaal van haar moeder in handen te hebben. Al lezend leert ze haar eindelijk kennen."
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0345457374, Paperback)

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 mind deteriorates.

A San Francisco career woman who makes her living by ghostwriting self-help books, Ruth has little idea of her mother's past or true identity. What's more, their relationship has tended to be an angry one. Still, Ruth recognizes the onset of LuLing's decline--along with her own remorse over past rancor--and hires a translator to decipher the packets. She also resolves to "ask her mother to tell her about her life. For once, she would ask. She would listen. She would sit down and not be in a hurry or have anything else to do."

Framed at either end by Ruth's chapters, the central portion of The Bonesetter's Daughter takes place in China in the remote, mountainous region where anthropologists discovered Peking Man in the 1920s. Here superstition and tradition rule over a succession of tiny villages. And here LuLing grows up under the watchful eye of her hideously scarred nursemaid, Precious Auntie. As she makes clear, it's not an enviable setting:

I noticed the ripe stench of a pig pasture, the pockmarked land dug up by dragon-bone dream-seekers, the holes in the walls, the mud by the wells, the dustiness of the unpaved roads. I saw how all the women we passed, young and old, had the same bland face, sleepy eyes that were mirrors of their sleepy minds.
Nor is rural isolation the worst of it. LuLing's family, a clan of ink makers, believes itself cursed by its connection to a local doctor, who cooks up his potions and remedies from human bones. And indeed, a great deal of bad luck befalls the narrator and her sister GaoLing before they can finally engineer their escape from China. Along the way, familial squabbles erupt around every corner, particularly among mothers, daughters, and sisters. And as she did in her earlier The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan uses these conflicts to explore the intricate dynamic that exists between first-generation Americans and their immigrant elders. --Victoria Jenkins

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:54 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

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 curse laid upon a relative known as the bonesetter. When headsrong LuLing rejects the marriage proposal of the coffinmaker, a shocking series of events are set in motion -- all of which lead back to Ruth and LuLing in modern San Francisco. The truth that Ruth learns from her mother's past will forever change her perception of family, love, and forgiveness.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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