Amy Tan has made it so quickly into my ‘favourite authors’ list that I’m reading her books regardless of whether that stops me from getting 60 new authors under my belt this year. I don’t want to wait till next year to read what else she has to offer, I want to read them now.
The Bonesetter’s Daughter is… exquisite. The words to describe it are trite really but none the less true for it. It is moving, thought provoking, maybe life changing. As a story and as prose, it is captivating and as a description of a mother-daughter relationship that is difficult, it struck a lot of chords with me, not all of them comfortable ones.
In brief, it tells the story of Ruth, a first generation Chinese American at a pivotal point in her life. She’s not quite happy, not quite fulfilled and uncomfortably aware she is not fulfilling everything she wishes she were, while all too aware of the edges of her comfort zone. And it also tells the story of her mother, a woman slipping quickly into dementia with a history and a past from the days of 1930-1950’s China which needs to be told so her daughter understand who she is and where she came from.
The story slips between the two time periods effortlessly and the characters really do grow and alter before your eyes. So little happens, yet everything changes, in the way that is so often true of life for all of us. It is not always the wrenchingly big things that alter everything. All the characters, all their foibles and flaws, are recognisable from the teen step daughters to the mothers (many of them) who little the story.
I think it would be impossible to do justice to the book; read it, learn a little more about life in a time British school history lessons ignore, stand beside some women who watched everything change. You will not, I think, be disappointed, not least because, without tying the ends up in a pretty bow, there is a sense of something having been accomplished through communication at the end of it. All the people, imperfect as they are, make some effort and there is some reward for that.
It’s a pleasing thought.
BLM index – not bad. It has a bit of this and that in it, as life does, but nothing so terrible as to pull your heart out.