There is just so much I want to say about this book that I risk spilling the entire memoir out here.
I remember I couldn't helped but to relate the story to a friend even though I was only midway through the book then. Couldn't helped gushing about how it was so captivating, how the usage of Chinese proverbs in every chapter header perfectly described that particular chapter in Adeline's life, how life in Shanghai was exactly how it was always portrayed in Chinese drama series and many more.
However, do not mistaken my excitement for all things bright and sunny. In fact, it's the exact opposite.Adeline Yen Mah's childhood was one filled with more frowns than smiles. Being born to a mother who died shortly after labor, she was destined to grow up under abuse, both physically and emotionally, not only at the hands of a cruel stepmother but also at the hands of her own siblings, an elder sister and 3 older brothers. Their household may be one that was wealthy and influential but the pain that Adeline went through did not reflect those privileges. She was not even allowed to have friends to come by her house. Her excellent academic achievements was deemed as showing off and being boastful. Her little pet chick was the weakest and smallest yet was the one chosen to be mauled by the parent's pet dog. She was later sent off to a boarding school in Tianjin, right at the height of China's Civil War, where according to her, "Most people were fleeing in the opposite direction".
Adeline weathered the storm and eventually fate dealt a gentler hand and she managed to come out triumphant, becoming a physician in the United States, and then a writer. Her passion had always been in writing which came out top in a prestigious writing competition that managed to catch her father's eyes for once in her life. Even in adulthood, filial piety is in her blood and she did whatever she could to help out her family. She definitely deserved better than the ugliness that reared its head after the death of her father and later the stepmother.
Overall, it is an engaging read. Adeline certainly has a prowess for writing. The memoir is not only about her sad childhood. It is also about her ancestors and their glorious past, her aunt's life in the middle of the China Cultural Revolution, and her own struggles in a foreign land where racial prejudice were rife back in 1950s. Most of all, it's about her root, her culture, her growing up, her voice.
Just like the proverb, Luo Ye Gui Gen (Falling leaves return to their roots), this is her journey.