Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Bonesetter’s Daughter by Amy Tan

This audiobook kept my interest well enough, but it's nothing I would sit through again. The main character, Ruth, is a self-doubting, self-obsessed, self-bemoaning little wretch who isn’t happy with anything in her life or the forces beyond her control that are affecting it until she reads a forgotten manuscript written by her mother about her own life growing up in China. Then, everything connects and Ruth is happy and confident, writing her own stories instead of ghostwriting books for others.

Ruth isn’t the titular bonesetter’s daughter. Neither is Liu Ling, Ruth’s mother. The bonesetter’s daughter is Ruth’s grandmother, whose life is filled with tragedy and heartbreak, and who kills herself rather than see her daughter married off to her enemies. Hers is a woeful tale, so different than the luxury and comfort that Ruth lives in and complains about, depressing and unbelievable all at the same time. Looking back on it, I realize there were several times I nearly gave up on the book. If it wasn’t Ruth’s unquenchable angst (Let’s go out for pizza? I wonder what he meant by that? Doesn’t he like my cooking? Is he having an affair?) it was her mother’s tale of poverty and betrayal in backwater China. If it wasn’t for my pledge to finish whatever I start, I probably would have moved on after the third tape.

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