Tuesday 30 June 2015

Short post on another cool, overcast, not-yet-rainy day...

This post is partially a test of the new “Get updates by email” feature, and partially an opportunity to talk about the audiobook I finished last week but forgot to write about in my last post.  I’m sitting here with a steaming cup of (regular) tea, with CBC Radio 2 on in the background, so it’s a perfect setting for posting.

I listened to Amy Tan’s book, The Bonesetter’s Daughter recently.  This is a title I’ve been meaning to read for quite a while - a paperback copy has been sitting on my bookshelf next to The Joy Luck Club for I-don’t-remember-how-long.  This novel tells the story of Ruth, a mid-forties woman who makes her living as a ghost-writer of self-help books.  She has been in a common-law relationship with Art, who his two teenaged daughters, for over ten years, and feels that she is underappreciated by everyone.  When her elderly mother, Lu Ling, becomes increasingly forgetful, makes incorrect statements about her past, and starts to behave in erratic ways, Ruth worries that she is beginning to suffer from dementia.  While living with her mother temporarily, Ruth finally has time to read the pages her mother gave her several years before, which Ruth has recently had translated From Chinese to English.  In this story-within-a-story, Lu Ling tells of her own childhood and early adult life, which was fraught with obstacles and bad luck.  Lu Ling also writes of Precious Auntie, a nursemaid from whom she has continued to seek counsel throughout her life, using Ruth as a conduit via a sand tray and a chopstick.  Reading this account of her mother’s young life helps Ruth to appreciate Lu Ling’s character and her treatment of Ruth as she was growing up, and in removing herself from the daily routine of life, Ruth, along with Art and the girls, begin to appreciate their own situation.  In typical fashion, Tan explores the relationship between mother and daughter, and the past of the mother which is kept hidden from the less-than-inquisitive daughter.  I enjoyed this book, but I would have preferred it if it was laid out differently.  In the book, we get Ruth’s story, then we get all of Lu Ling’s story, then we go back to Ruth’s story as she tries to understand and appreciate Lu Ling.  Personally, I wish we got some of Ruth’s story partway through Lu Ling’s story, just to break it up.  Amy Tan narrated part of the book (I’m guessing the part that was Lu Ling’s story) and Joan Chen narrated part, which made for an interesting listening experience.  It seemed a bit overlong to me, and I checked several times in the book I had to see how far along I was (the “parts” of the book on my mp3 player got a bit scrambled, so I couldn’t tell where I was).  But overall, it was an interesting exploration into the inter-generational difficulties families often face, particularly in the case where there is a culture gap between parent and child.  If you have never read any books by Tan, I would highly recommend this one.  I know this book has been criticized for being too similar in theme to her other books, but this story is such an in-depth exploration of one family’s misunderstandings that I think it holds its own in the literary world.

OK, that’s all for today - I want to get out before it starts to rain.  Have a great day, and have a Happy Canada Day tomorrow!
Bye for now…

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