This is the first book by Amy Tan I’ve read although I’ve certainly heard about her books. I had mixed feelings as I was reading through this book. At first, I was quite intrigued, but then as I continued reading through part 1, I felt a bit bogged down in what seemed to be a story about a failed marriage and yet another cataloguing of an elderly person with Alzheimer’s Disease which I feel is being overdone these days. Yes, it is a situation many of us find ourselves in: caring for an elderly parent with dementia. No, it’s not an easy thing to try to cope with or to help with. Yes, we know many others dealing with this if we are not doing it ourselves. No, despite all the information about it, we still find surprising twists with the disease and have to constantly adjust our thinking. Yes, there are good reasons it is called “the long good-bye”. But no, there comes a time when enough is enough and we need a break from it for awhile, from hearing about it, reading about it, trying to deal with it.
However, when I got to Part 2 of the The Bone Setter’s Daughter, the pace picked up and became way more interesting. It was no longer about a family in San Francisco but about the bonesetter and his daughter in China, pre-war, full of rich detail about village life, calligraphy, the value of bones, the customs, the superstitions, and the universal way in which some people take advantage of others, and the others somehow determine that they will survive. It is the story of the granddaughter of the bonesetter, what she remembers, what she must write down for her daughter, Ruth, before the disease of Alzheimer’s takes her memory away. It is extremely compelling, gives greater depth to the story Ruth is now living, and gives her the opportunity to have a deeper connection to both her mother and her live-in partner, a greater sense of feeling, a greater understanding of exactly what is right and wrong about her mother’s memory.
Though I found the beginning a bit slow-paced, once into it thoroughly, I began to really enjoy Tan’s writing and story-telling. I’m sure this will not be the last book by her I will read, and I will better understand how she is drawing me in to a bigger picture that will explode all my preconceptions of what her story is all about. This is a great book that needs to be read with a little patience. * * * *