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The Bonesetter's Daughter
The Bonesetter's Daughter
Author: Amy Tan
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 mem...  more »
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ISBN-13: 9780345457370
ISBN-10: 0345457374
Publication Date: 2003
Pages: 400
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.

4.1 stars, based on 148 ratings
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Book Type: Paperback
Other Versions: Hardcover, Audio Cassette, Audio CD
Reviews: Member | Amazon | Write a Review

Top Member Book Reviews

reviewed The Bonesetter's Daughter on + 37 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 13
"The Bonesetter's Daughter" like most of Amy Tan's novels center on the relationship between a mother and daughter. This story, however, has three generations represented separately as the granddaughter never met her grandmother.

"The Bonesetter's Daughter" is interesting from a historical glance. It takes place mostly in WWII era China. While the characters become well developed through backward glances, the book still feels under-developed to me.

I wasn't very impressed with this book. I thought that it could have been done better. The resolve just wasn't there for me. I did like the final message, but I thought that the 399 pages leading up to it were a long way to come for so short of an impartation to the reader. Read more at
reviewed The Bonesetter's Daughter on + 88 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 8
Amy Tan is a wonderful story teller, even when she's telling the same one. So far, each of the books I've read have been about mother-daughter conflicts and that's what drives The Bonesetter's Daughter too. Some similar themes in the books include traditional Chinese mother vs Americanized Chinese daughter and the daughter lives with or is married to a non-Chinese partner. The backstories are always different, though, and make for a fascinating read. I'm always pulled in. In this story, LuLing--the mother--recognizes that she's losing her memory and writes down everything she can remember about her life. Her daughter Ruth has been very busy with her career and her family--boyfriend and his two daughters--and has had some bumps and rough spots along the road with her mother so she hasn't been visiting often. This crisis of health brings them back together, though, and Ruth learns about her mother's life and why she behaved the way she did. I loved the story and would recommend it to anyone!
ShareBear avatar reviewed The Bonesetter's Daughter on + 159 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 8
This book is an excellent story about an AmeriAsian woman who has to find out about her mother's past and her history, before she truly knows who she is and can find true love and happiness. It is as good as The Joy Luck Club also written by Amy Tan.
reviewed The Bonesetter's Daughter on
Helpful Score: 7
Formulaic, yet addictive...

I almost feel bad criticizing this book for being overly formulaic when I actually enjoyed parts of it so much. Yes, this is typical Amy Tan fare, which includes mother-daughter angst, immigrant culture, and old Chinese family secrets dusted off and gradually exposed through some engrossing storytelling. The story shifts between present-day San Francisco where we follow Ruth Young and her struggles with her Chinese-born mother, LuLing, and pre-WW2 rural China where we are treated to sumptious descriptions of old customs and superstitions surrounding LuLing's family origins. As with Tan's other books, it is when she takes the reader back in time to China that the story really shines. When the plot returns to America, it almost feels like a complete let-down.

In present time, Ruth's mother, LuLing, suffers from dementia, and as a result she has written down her life story in Chinese for her daughter to read. Ruth, who is not fluent in written Mandarin, hires someone to translate the story, and it is through this translation we are treated to the memoirs of LuLing. The bonesetter is her grandfather, and the daughter actually refers to LuLing's real mother - or Precious Auntie as she is called. This tragic title character is at the center of the story both before and after her death, and the injustices done to her by her adversaries as well as her own family are heartwrenching. The dynamic between LuLing and her "sister" GaoLing is also well portrayed, and the sisterly jealousies as well as loyalties are well characterized. The family business aspects, caligraphy descriptions and the ink-producing process are fascinating to read.
All the superstitions and ghosts that envelope every character in China, however, are the most satisfying parts.

There are numerous subplots and transitory characters, both in China and in San Fransisco. There are the two American missionaries along with Sister Yu, who run the orphanage where LuLing spends several years both as student and teacher. There are the British mother and daughter and their talking parrot in Hong Kong where LiuLing as a maid learns English. There are the archeologists who are excavating the Peking Man - and the one who wins LuLing's heart. The subplot involving Dottie and Lance from Ruth's childhood, however, albeit interesting, seemed to fizzle out without a proper conclusion.
Finally, the main male characters in the story were quite one-dimensional (saintly or evil) - but this is rather typical in Tan's writing.

The end is too contrived in its desperate attempt to provide some sort of closure between everyone. Also, the translator's role becomes a bit too sentimental. You leave the book wishing to read more about China, which is actually a good feeling.

All in all, this is a comforting hammock read without profound implications.
reviewed The Bonesetter's Daughter on + 533 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 6
The Bonesetter's Daughter is a wonderful example of Amy Tan's considerable skill as a master storyteller. Here she exposes to us, layer by layer, the deeply complex relationship between Ruth Young, a ghostwriter of self-help books, and her mother, LuLing.
Realizing she is having problems with her memory long before Ruth suspects it, Luling painstakingly writes the facts of her life as best she remembers it, so that her story doesn't die with her failing memory.

The start and finish of this novel, which chronicles Ruth's struggle in coming to terms with her mother througout her life and Ruth's stumbling upon LuLing's memoirs, frame the middle section of the book, which consist of the memoirs themselves.
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sonjamp avatar reviewed The Bonesetter's Daughter on + 25 more book reviews
I liked this book. I would happily recommend it and I can see myself re-reading it once more (in the distant future, after I've forgotten some of the details and can be surprised again).
BriSplit avatar reviewed The Bonesetter's Daughter on + 17 more book reviews
Amy Tan's The Bonesetter's Daughter is a wonderfully told story about three generations of women and a long standing curse on their family. A thoroughly enjoyable read. It brings a better understanding to the reader, of relationships between mothers and daughters who struggle to understand each other.
reviewed The Bonesetter's Daughter on + 13 more book reviews
I love Amy Tan's portrayals of mother-daughter relationships and this is no exception. The conversations and descriptions of confrontation are so true to life. If you liked Joy Luck Club, you will like this one too.
reviewed The Bonesetter's Daughter on + 4 more book reviews
This is not the best Amy Tan book I've read, and it's not a book I would read over and over, but it's entertaining the first time. It's kind of a depressing story.
reviewed The Bonesetter's Daughter on + 6 more book reviews
I loved this
reviewed The Bonesetter's Daughter on + 12 more book reviews
Typical Amy Tan look at mother-daughter relationships in the Asian-American community.
reviewed The Bonesetter's Daughter on + 10 more book reviews
This is a great mother-daughter story. It's basically a mystery story, so I hate to give a lot away, but there are some real "goose-bumpy" moments when truth reveals itself.
reviewed The Bonesetter's Daughter on
There is not a reader out there who will not identify with at least one character in this book. It's one of those books that is hard to put down...EXCELLENT!
reviewed The Bonesetter's Daughter on + 16 more book reviews
Tan does it again with the Bonesetter's Daughter. She takes us through the lives of 3 generations of women, the oldest entirely in China, the youngest in the USA and the middle bridging both.

The story opens in the United States. The protagonist, Ruth, is a ghost writer unable to commit to her divorced-with-children boyfriend. She and her aged mother, LuLing, aren't as close as either might wish, but when Ruth's mother gives her a manuscript (written in Chinese) detailing LuLing's personal history, Ruth comes to a clearer understanding of just what makes mom tick.

The history of Ruth's mother and grandmother is revealed in the setting of 1920s China in the rural area where the bones of the Peking Man were discovered. As with The Joy Luck Club, the stories told are not all pleasant. There is a gritty realism to the histories that demands we respect and honor the trials gone through by the Chinese peasant women in their quests for love and a better life. American-born Ruth comes to see her mother in a new light even as Alzheimer disease dims LuLing's memories.

Another great read from Tan with fascinating characters in both eras.
reviewed The Bonesetter's Daughter on
I loved this book. The rich description and well spun story kept me intrigued. I was more interested in the mothers story, or flashbacks, rather than the modern thread. All together it made me really think about and cherish my relationships after this read.
tishaklingensmith avatar reviewed The Bonesetter's Daughter on + 7 more book reviews
A bit slow to start but gets really good when the story switches to that of the mother. Overall great read!
Swanee avatar reviewed The Bonesetter's Daughter on + 9 more book reviews
Amy Tan is a wonderful writer that takes you on a journey to a China that we never hear about. If you are interested in other cultures or stories about the past you will lovve this book.
knittymama avatar reviewed The Bonesetter's Daughter on + 424 more book reviews
Very descriptive and colorful. A great story. I love Amy Tan!
Handlebars avatar reviewed The Bonesetter's Daughter on + 153 more book reviews
8 cassettes 12 hours

From Publishers Weekly
In its rich character portrayals and sensitivity to the nuances of mother-daughter relationships, Tan's new novel is the real successor to, and equal of, The Joy Luck Club. This luminous and gripping book demonstrates enhanced tenderness and wisdom, however; it carries the texture of real life and reflects the paradoxes historical events can produce. Ruth Young is a 40-ish ghostwriter in San Francisco who periodically goes mute, a metaphorical indication of her inability to express her true feelings to the man she lives with, Art Kamen, a divorced father of two teenage daughters. Ruth's inability to talk is subtly echoed in the story of her mother LuLing's early life in China, which forms the long middle section of the novel. Overbearing, accusatory, darkly pessimistic, LuLing has always been a burden to Ruth. Now, at 77, she has Alzheimer's, but luckily she had recorded in a diary the extraordinary events of her childhood and youth in a small village in China during the years that included the discovery nearby of the bones of Peking Man, the Japanese invasion, the birth of the Republic and the rise of Communism. LuLing was raised by a nursemaid called Precious Auntie, the daughter of a famous bonesetter. Once beautiful, Precious Auntie's face was burned in a suicide attempt, her mouth sealed with scar tissue. When LuLing eventually learns the secrets of Precious Auntie's tragic life, she is engulfed by shame and guilt.
reviewed The Bonesetter's Daughter on + 25 more book reviews
This was an interesting story of generations, family secrets and relationships. A very enjoyable read.
reviewed The Bonesetter's Daughter on + 7 more book reviews
I very much enjoyed this book. The story is told from the daughter's point of view, the daughter of the Bonesetter's Daughter. We are in the present, being taken via story telling to the past. I loved the sense of pride, determination, and dignity of the LuLing Liu Young. And her, daughter, Ruth, learns something about herself as well as the story unfolds such that she is a better partner and stepmother.
reviewed The Bonesetter's Daughter on + 264 more book reviews
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.
...from Amazon