I recently read, Falling Leaves : The Memoir of an Unwanted Chinese Daughter by Adeline Yen Mah. The book is a memoir in which the author chronicles her unhappy childhood growing up in a wealthy, yet emotionally abusive family in 20th Century China and Hong Kong. In summary, the author’s mother dies giving birth to her, thus labeling her birth a bad omen. Her father then remarries a selfish woman who is cruel to the author throughout her life.
While reading about the author’s childhood I sympathized with her and the struggles she faced both within her own family and her culture. However, once she became a successful adult and moved to the United States, I found her a bit pathetic. I tried to remain culturally sensitive, as I recognize it was indeed a different time and place. That said, the author continued to make the same mistakes over and over and over. As she continued to set herself up time and time again for more abuse, I lost sympathy and started to question her intelligence. At some point, you’ve got to say to yourself, it’s time to cut my losses and move on. Much to my surprise the author never did that. And so as I got to the end of the book and the author is telling her final tragic anecdote I certainly wasn’t surprised at the outcome (although the author somehow was) and perhaps more significantly, I found I really didn’t care.