The Bonesetter’s Daughter
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books (February 4, 2003)
This is Amy Tan’s fourth novel, and by far her strongest work. In “The Bone-setter’s Daughter”, Tan returns – as she has in all her novels – to her Chinese heritage and explores themes of despair, loss, belonging, and memory.
Ruth Young is a ghost writer for self-help books, living in California with her long-term partner and his two daughters. Her love-hate relationship with her ailing mother comes to a catalyst when LuLing is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Ruth also finds amongst her mother’s possessions two collections of writings in Chinese – one packet titled “Things I Know Are True”, and the other titled “Things I Must Not Forget”.
As Ruth struggles to read and translate the writings, watching her mother deteriorate as she does so, she begins to piece together the true story of her mother’s life – and of her own.
Secrets and superstition emerge in a harrowing, heartbreaking fashion. As she did in “The Kitchen God’s Wife”, Tan explores the conflict between the horrors of the past and present reality and attempts to locate the threads that bind them.
Despite being a continuation of the same themes used in all Tan’s previous work, “The Bonesetter’s Daughter” manages to be both refreshing and memorable.
This review is by Sharanya Manivannan