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2 Beaverton Literature- A to Z

The Bonesetter's Daughter


The Bonesetter's Daughter Cover

ISBN13: 9780804114981
ISBN10: 0804114986
Condition: Standard
All Product Details

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Reading Group Guide

1. Bones constitute an important motif in The Bonesetter's Daughter.

What is the significance of the book's title? How does breaking

a bone change Ruth's life and her relationship with her

mother? What importance do bones hold for LuLing and Precious


2. Each year, Ruth makes a conscious decision not to speak for one

week. Why does she elect to go silent? In which ways does this

self-imposed muteness mirror the challenges faced by both her

mother and by Precious Auntie? How does Ruth find her voice as

the novel goes on?

3. From childhood onward, Ruth is locked in a constant struggle

with her mother. In which ways does her behavior echo LuLing's

rebellion against her own mother? How do these conflicts have

violent consequences, both physical and emotional?

4. To frame the novel, Tan uses the device of a story within a story.

How is this effective in bringing past and present together?

5. How does LuLing come to life in her own words, and how is that

vantage point different from Ruth's point of view? How is the

LuLing that springs to life in her manuscript different from the

figure Ruth grapples with on a regular basis?

6. LuLing begins her story, "These are the things I must not forget."

Why is she so adamant about remembering--and honoring--

what has come before? In contrast, what is Precious Auntie's attitude

toward the past? In which ways does she recast prior events,

thus concealing the truth from LuLing? How does Ruth grapple

with what she uncovers about the history of her family, and what

it means for her future?

7. Ruth is shocked to learn that her aunt, GaoLing, is not her

mother's real sister. How does the relationship between the two

women defy the adage that blood is thicker than water?

8. How does the dynamic between LuLing and GaoLing evolve as

the book unfolds? What emotions does LuLing feel most strongly

toward GaoLing, and vice versa? Why?

9. Although GaoLing speaks English fluently, by contrast, LuLing

never learns to communicate effectively in the language, instead

relying on Ruth to be her mouthpiece. How is the spoken word

depicted in this novel? Is it more or less important than the written

word? How does LuLing communicate in other ways--for

example, artistically?

10. How does the concept of destiny shape the lives of both Precious

Auntie and LuLing? How does each woman fight against the

strictures of fate? In the modern world, does destiny hold as

much weight? Why or why not?

11. Both Precious Auntie and LuLing lose love in tragic ways. How is

romantic love depicted in The Bonesetter's Daughter? How does

Ruth's concept of love differ from that of her grandmother's and

mother's? Does LuLing's conception of love evolve over time?

12. LuLing is introduced to Western ideas and religion while living

and working in an American-run orphanage. How does she reconcile

these different ideologies with the beliefs she holds? Does

her belief in her family's curse fade or blossom within the confines

of a different societal framework?

13. How does LuLing forge a new life for herself in America? In

which ways does she remain constrained by the past, and in

which ways does she triumph over it?

14. Which of GaoLing's characteristics enable her to adjust to

America with more ease than her sister? Which make it more


15. "Orchids look delicate but thrive on neglect." In which way does

this idle musing by Ruth apply to the other relationships in the

novel, including her own with Art and his children?

16. Ruth has lived with the specter of Precious Auntie her entire life.

How does her mother's obsession with Precious Auntie affect

Ruth? Do you view Precious Auntie's presence next to Ruth in

the last scene of the book as a figurative or a literal one? Why?

17. Based on her manuscript alone, the translator of LuLing's story

becomes fascinated with her. What about her story, in your opin-

ion, is so alluring and transcendent? How does her fading mind

open her to new experiences?

18. As LuLing loses her memory, how does her story become more

clear to Ruth? How does Tan explore the transience of memory

in The Bonesetter's Daughter?

19. Ruth works as a successful ghostwriter. How is this profession

significant, both literally and figuratively, in her communication

with her mother and with the world around her? How has her

professional life opened Ruth to the world around her, and how

has it shut her off?

20. What significance do names and their nuances have in The Bonesetter's

Daughter? Why is it so important that Ruth discover her

family's true name? When Ruth discovers what her own name

means, how does that realization change her relationship with


From the Trade Paperback edition.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 2 comments:

TreeLover, April 16, 2010 (view all comments by TreeLover)
Amy Tan weaves a masterful narrative following the interwoven stories of three strong women characters, Ruth, Luling, and Precious Auntie. Her novel grapples with themes of Chinese-American immigrant identity, storytelling, memory, ghosts, and mother-daughter relationships. For any reader of fiction, this novel "gives voice" to an exquisite familial history. You will undoubtedly enjoy Tan's fluid and touching writing style.
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peqchica5, April 20, 2006 (view all comments by peqchica5)
I loved this book. It touch me. I really connected to Ruth. I enjoyed reading the book. It was my favorite book.
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(13 of 22 readers found this comment helpful)
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Product Details

Tan, Amy
Ballantine Books
New York
Mothers and daughters
Women immigrants
Chinese American families
Domestic fiction
Chinese American women
General Fiction
Literature-A to Z
Edition Description:
Mass market paperback
Series Volume:
v. 5, no. 4
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
7.14x4.44x1.13 in. .45 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Mystery » A to Z

The Bonesetter's Daughter Used Mass Market
0 stars - 0 reviews
$4.50 In Stock
Product details 416 pages Ballantine Books - English 9780804114981 Reviews:
"Review" by , "[An] absorbing tale of the mother-dauthter bond....This book sing[s] with emotion and insight."
"Review" by , "Amy Tan [has] done it again....The Bonesetter?s Daughter tells a compelling tale of family relationships; it layers and stirs themes of secrets, ambiguous meanings, cultural complexity and self-identity; and it resonates with metaphor and symbol."
"Review" by , "For Tan, the true keeper of memory is language, and so the novel is layered with stories that have been written down?by mothers for their daughters, passing along secrets that cannot be said out loud but must not be forgotten."
"Review" by , "Tan at her best....Rich and hauntingly forlorn...the writing is so exacting and unique in its detail."
"Review" by , "The Bonesetter?s Daughter dramatically chronicles the tortured, devoted relationship between LuLing Young and her daughter Ruth....A strong novel, filled with idiosyncratic, sympathetic characters, haunting images, historical complexity, significant contemporary themes, and suspenseful mystery."
"Review" by , "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....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."
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