The Bonesetter's Daughter

The Bonesetter's Daughter

Book - 2001
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"In memories that rise like wisps of ghosts, LuLing Young searches for the name of her mother, the daughter of the Famous Bonesetter from the Mouth of the Mountain. Trying to hold on to the evaporating past, she begins to write all that she can remember of her life as a girl in China. Meanwhile, her daughter Ruth, a ghostwriter for authors of self-help books, is losing the ability to speak up for herself in front of the man she lives with and his two teenage daughters. None of her professional sound bites and pat homilies works for her personal life; she knows only how to translate what others want to say. Ruth starts suspecting that something is terribly wrong with her mother. As a child, Ruth had been constantly subjected to her mother's disturbing notions about curses and ghosts, and to her repeated threats to kill herself, and was even forced by her mother to try to communicate with ghosts. But now LuLing seems less argumentative, even happy, far from her usual disagreeable and dissatisfied self. While tending to her ailing mother, Ruth discovers the pages LuLing wrote in Chinese, the story of her tumultuous and star-crossed life, and is transported to a backwoods village known as Immortal Heart. There she learns of secrets passed along by a mute nursemaid, Precious Auntie; of a cave where dragon bones are mined, some of which may prove to be the teeth of Peking Man; of the crumbling ravine known as the End of the World, where Precious Auntie's scattered bones lie, and of the curse that LuLing believes she released through betrayal. Like layers of sediment being removed, each page reveals secrets of a larger mystery: What became of Peking Man? What was the name of the Bonesetter's Daughter? And who was Precious Auntie, whose suicide changed the path of LuLing's life? Within LuLing's calligraphed pages awaits the truth about a mother's heart, what she cannot tell her daughter yet hopes she will never forget. Set in contemporary San Francisco and in a Chinese village where Peking Man is being unearthed, The Bonesetter's Daughter is an excavation of the human spirit: the past, its deepest wounds, its most profound hopes. The story conjures the pain of broken dreams, the power of myths, and the strength of love that enables us to recover in memory what we have lost in grief. Over the course of one fog-shrouded year, between one season of falling stars and the next, mother and daughter find what they share in their bones through heredity, history, and inexpressible qualities of love."--Inside jacket.
Publisher: New York : G.P. Putnam's , 2001
Branch Call Number: FICTION TAN
Characteristics: 353 p. ; 24 cm

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Hillsboro_RobP Nov 05, 2018

Amy Tan can often deliver mixed results (I thought Saving Fish... was a mess), but when she's working on a mother/daughter relationship, we've got gold. This is the gold, and is just as true a story as anything nonfiction.

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Andrew Kyle Bacon
Feb 05, 2018

This book falls short of being a great novel for an ironic reason. The main character, Ruth, is an editor: she assist authors in tightening their work and putting it to the paper not as they wrote it, but as they imagined it. Part of me suspects this novel needed its main character's expertise. In no way is the novel bad, or even greatly flawed, it simply goes on a bit too long. With some slight tightening, this novel could be quick and impactful. The pay off in the final chapters of the novel, while satisfying, are somewhat undone by the novel's length.

Structurally, this book is interesting and fun, being broken into three parts. Parts 1 and 3 concern Ruth, dealing with her mother suffering from Alzheimer's, and part 2 details her mother's life as a child in China. While all three of these are interesting and weave together in very interesting ways, the length hurts the pacing, making it difficult to get through at times.

I feel that I am in no way the intended audience for this book (I am a 26 year old dude), I still enjoyed this novel thoroughly, despite what I feel are issues with pacing and length. I had always wanted to read an Amy Tan novel for some reason, and I'm glad that I finally have. I'll certainly read more of her work in the future.

o
OllPuff9
Jul 25, 2017

I found this book far better than "The Joy Luck Club" which I have to admit I could not finish. I have seen parts of the movie (JLC) and thought I would like the book, especially since I liked this one so much. I couldn't put this book down; Joy Luck Club I returned only 1/3 read.

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Eil_1
Jul 25, 2016

A timeless and beautiful recounting of Ruth's life with her mother - an immigrant from China following WWII; the discovery of handwritten account of her mother's life in China that reveals the identity of Ruth's Grandmother - "Precious Auntie". Highly recommended.

ehbooklover Apr 13, 2015

An exploration of the relationship between mothers and daughters, told effectively via different generations of the same family. Realistic characters, interesting descriptions of Chinese culture and traditions, plus an engaging story made for a great read.

WVMLStaffPicks Dec 22, 2014

Amy Tan excels in the exploration of relationships between immigrant parents and American born children, and especially so in this novel of the discovery of a mother’s handwritten account of her life in China. Over the course of a year, mother and daughter finally discover what they share in their bones.

s
swz2000
Nov 08, 2013

A very touching story. I like Amy Tan's books.

m
marmoore
Aug 21, 2012

Amy Tan always tells a good story.

a
arleenwilliams
Aug 03, 2012

A rich rewarding read.

p
Pepperbot
Apr 09, 2012

I loved this book! Mundane occurances become interesting and funny when Tan writes about them, and those difficult aspects of relationships are portrayed so perfectly. And that's not all - the story was really interesting, being told through a few generations. A beautiful book overall. Lovely.

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Lauren May 07, 2008

Ruth, a Chinese-American woman in San Francisco, worries that her elderly mother LuLing is beginning to suffer from dementia. Years earlier, when LuLing realized her memory was starting to disappear, she wrote down her life story for her daughter, in Chinese. Ruth finds these documents and has them translated, learning the truth about her mother's life in China and the effect it has had on her own life.

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