I loved this very well written and fascinating memoir filled with culture clashes, family secrets and tightly-held traditions. Mei-Ling's explanations, wonder and confusion of the customs and traditions were easy to relate to because she was an outsider, despite having been born there. I really like all of the references to food and eating, even though I probably wouldn't eat some of the food. I think I gained 10 pounds just by reading the book.
I admired Mei-Ling. In Taiwan, she was caught between her Ba's erratic behaviour, Ma's submissiveness, and her sisters' desires to protect her as well as their secrets. As the secrets were revealed, her desire to get to know Ma and her choices became Mei-Ling's focus. It was so difficult for Mei-Ling to communicate with Ma because of the language barrier; it was sad. I really felt sorry for Ma, who was trapped in a troubled marriage by her own beliefs and customs. Back in America, Mei-Ling wanted to keep in touch with her "new" family in Taiwan, but she also wanted to carry on with her life. It must have been incredibly hard for her.
The book was educational as well. I learned some interesting new things about the Chinese people and their culture. One thing that I found interesting is that they are straightforward and are not afraid to tell you exactly what they think. I identified with Mei-Ling who was sometimes taken aback by some of the comments. I loved how Mei-Ling discovered that the Chinese don't ask you "How are you?", they say "Have you eaten?" because of their fondness for food.
One of my favourite quotes:
Some people spend their whole lives trying to uncover, understand, or escape from their pasts. Mine rose up like a dragon, fast and furious. And I was blissfully ignorant, a sleeping ox about to be discovered--and devoured.
For more information about this book, visit the Algonquin Books website.