The Bonesetter's Daughter by Amy Tan
A Novel (Ballantine Reader's Circle)

70%

11 Critic Reviews

The novel exhibits a poignant clarity as it investigates the dilemma of adult children who must become caretakers of their elderly parents, a situation Tan articulates with integrity and exemplary empathy for both generations.
-Publishers Weekly

Synopsis

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.
 

About Amy Tan

See more books from this Author
Amy Tan is the author of The Joy Luck Club, The Kitchen God's Wife, The Hundred Secret Senses, The Bonesetter's Daughter, The Opposite of Fate: Memories of a Writing Life, Saving Fish from Drowning, and two children's books, The Moon Lady and Sagwa, which has now been adapted as a PBS production. Tan was also a co-producer and co-screenwriter of the film version of The Joy Luck Club. Her essays and stories have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies. Her work has been translated into thirty-five languages. She lives with her husband in San Francisco and New York.
 
Published February 19, 2001 by G.P. Putnam's Sons. 378 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, History. Fiction
Bestseller Status:
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Peak Rank on Oct 09 2016
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Weeks as Bestseller
Add Critic Review

Critic reviews for The Bonesetter's Daughter
All: 11 | Positive: 7 | Negative: 4

Publishers Weekly

Excellent
on Oct 18 2001

The novel exhibits a poignant clarity as it investigates the dilemma of adult children who must become caretakers of their elderly parents, a situation Tan articulates with integrity and exemplary empathy for both generations.

Read Full Review of The Bonesetter's Daughter: A ... | See more reviews from Publishers Weekly

Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by Alex Clark on Mar 23 2001

Ruth's bizarre under-reaction to her mother's memoir is perhaps the novel's weakest point...symptomatic of the cloying feel to some of Tan's writing. In the end, it is LuLing who is Tan's most ingeniously ambiguous creation.

Read Full Review of The Bonesetter's Daughter: A ... | See more reviews from Guardian

Book Reporter

Good
Reviewed by Jami Edwards on Jan 21 2011

A poignant and often humorous book, THE BONESETTER'S DAUGHTER is an example of the best in writing and storytelling, a novel that transcends culture and history to strike at the heart of what makes us human.

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AV Club

Below average
Reviewed by Tasha Robinson on Apr 19 2015

While Bonesetter's individual segments are involving, the gaps between them are far too wide and far too readily glossed over. And for a novel that is, at its heart, about making historical and emotional connections, that's a fatal flaw.

Read Full Review of The Bonesetter's Daughter: A ... | See more reviews from AV Club

RT Book Reviews

Good
Reviewed by Kathe Robin on Oct 18 2016

Since The Joy Luck Club, I have been fascinated by Amy Tans unique ability to fearlessly explore the subtle nuances of mother and daughter relationships. She has helped me see through both sets of eyes and I am still flabbergasted at how she does it.

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Entertainment Weekly

Below average
Reviewed by Troy Patterson on Feb 22 2001

The rich sources of vivid detail that Tan has mined so successfully in previous novels are undermined here by hackneyed images and feeble descriptions.

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Salon

Good
Reviewed by Maria Russo on Feb 21 2001

...Tan orchestrates an unsentimental, beautifully balanced convergence of historical and emotional truth. LuLing’s adventuresome, tragic story is effortlessly dramatic, perhaps because the early-20th century Chinese setting doesn’t lend itself to psychobabble — or, for that matter, to neatly happy endings.

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The Copperfield Review

Good
Reviewed by Paula Day on May 02 2012

A longtime fan of Tan’s, I was thrilled reading The Bonesetter’s Daughter and could not put it down. Universal, honest, achingly true, Tan’s straightforward prose speaks to the strengths and the weaknesses of the timeless bond between mothers and daughters.

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The Copperfield Review

Excellent
Reviewed by Paula Day on May 02 2012

A longtime fan of Tan’s, I was thrilled reading The Bonesetter’s Daughter and could not put it down. Universal, honest, achingly true, Tan’s straightforward prose speaks to the strengths and the weaknesses of the timeless bond between mothers and daughters.

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https://bookpage.com

Good
Reviewed by Robin Smith on Oct 17 2016

The Bonesetter's Daughter is a stirring reminder of the power of love, secrets and family stories. Family histories, even when they have been reinvented and rearranged, have the power to explain, inform and allow forgiveness.

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http://people.com

Below average
on Feb 26 2001

Tan tells a mean story complete with matchmakers, an evil suitor, family secrets and ghosts, but filling the middle chunk of the book with LuLing’s memoirs is a jarring device. And the ending wraps up more tidily than a Martha Stewart gift box—not a good thing.

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Reader Rating for The Bonesetter's Daughter
78%

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