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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Falling Leaves are inspirational!, 18 Mar. 2001
This review is from: Falling Leaves: The True Story of an Unwanted Chinese Daughter (Paperback)
The True Story of an Unwanted Chinese Daughter during the last 60 years. In order to explain the first scene in this memoir, Adeline Yen Mah has filled the opening chapters with lusty images of an emerging nation amid burgeoning commercial & international life at the end of an empire & the start of a revolution.
It is after Adeline's birth, during the Japanese encroachment around Tianjin in 1937, that her mother succumbs to puerperal fever leaving five children motherless & the household rudderless. The family must watch as Father seeks & marries a beautiful young Eurasian woman.
From here on Adeline Yen Mah's memoirs take on a dour & malevolent aspect. In her scrupulous honesty, Adeline muses that Niang must have been happy in the beginning, however, she forced siblings to choose sides, spy on each other & curry her favor. This most beautiful of stepmothers singles out the infant girl with particular venom; until Adeline is banished to boarding schools.
I survived that particular exile myself, so I found this author's memories devastating as well as healing. Adeline Yen Mah manages to recount, without a scrap of self-pity or rancor, the years of betrayal & persecution until her scholarship, literally rescues her from her stepmother's clutches. In England & at medical school, Adeline thrives. Knowing the England of the 1950s I was fascinated & familiar with her experiences. I followed her adventures with growing gladness even as my heart dropped with every dreaded return to the withered core of her family.
Then she makes her way to America & falls for a handsome man; beauty is as beauty does & why, I wondered, would someone with Adeline's relationship training, know how to choose a good man? In California, however, she gets the opportunity to mature, safely raise her children & practice her medical profession. In fact, she becomes, to my naughty delight, the one resounding success in her family.
I was enchanted, enthralled & sometimes dreaded the next chapter. Now I have another definition of courage - that's all you can ask of a good book. Do check out my site for my full review of this & many other autobiographies.
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