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Bone Paperback – May 13, 2008

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Hyperion; Reprint edition (May 13, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1401309534
  • ISBN-13: 978-1401309534
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.2 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #150,659 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This remarkable first novel chronicles a believable journey through pain to healing, exposing the emotional scars--the bleeding hearts and aching kinship bones--of its characters as they try to survive. The Leong family, based in San Francisco's Chinatown, includes three daughters: educator/community-relations specialist Leila, the narrator; restaurant hostess Ona, whose troubled life ends tragically in early adulthood; and Nina, who eventually takes off for New York, where she works as a flight attendant. Heading the clan (in an idiosyncratic, maddening fashion) are mother Mah, a seamstress who owns a baby clothing store, and father Leon, a merchant seaman who lives apart from his wife in an SRO-type hotel, keeping his "Going-Back-to-China Money" in a brown bag. Ng summons a quiet urgency from simple language, both in her physical descriptions (such as that of the office of the Hoy Sun Ning Yung Benevolent Association) and in her depictions of the characters' seesawing thoughts and feelings as they move between the Chinese- and English-speaking cultures. She ventures outside the Leong household less often than one might wish, but she lucidly renders those secondary characters, notably Leila's beau, Mason Louie, a mechanic who strives to understand and embrace her relatives but also hopes to convince her to establish a separate family with him. Ng reveals his insight into Leila's moodiness thus: "He says my anger is like flooding--too much gas, killing the engine." With such brilliant details, and in the larger picture of how death and life inform one another, this writer makes a stunning debut. Major ad/promo; author tour.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

In sharp contrast to the overdramatized lives of Chinese Americans in Amy Tan's work, Ng's simply written first novel is totally without sensationalism. Yet because her characters are depicted so realistically, the reader cannot but be moved by the hopes, grief, and quarrels of two generations of Chinese Americans in San Francisco's Chinatown. Mah, who has worked hard all her life in garment sweatshops, finally is able to own her baby-clothing store. Her husband, Leon, who used to be a merchant seaman, worked two shifts in ships' laundry rooms to provide for his family. Nevertheless, the family is torn apart after Ona, the middle daughter, jumps from the tallest building in Chinatown. The bones of contention and bones of inheritance come together in great turmoil as Nina, the youngest daughter, leaves Chinatown for New York City and then Leila, the oldest, marries and moves out to the suburbs. Leon, the paper son to old Leung, fails to keep his promise to take Leung's bones back to China. Thus, a family's tragedy is cast in greater historical context, and the reader is rewarded with a rich reading experience. Recommended for all libraries.
- Cherry W. Li, Los Angeles
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

This book was an easy read.
I wanted to like this book, but it seemed to go on forever when I just wanted it to end, literally the end seemed to stretch after more and more reading.
Ada Ardor
The author reveals too much at the beginning of the story, and I didn't feel any sense of surprise or suspense.
B. Wolinsky

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Orrin C. Judd VINE VOICE on October 10, 2000
Format: Paperback
We were a family of three girls. By Chinese standards, that wasn't lucky. In Chinatown, everyone knew our story. Outsiders jerked their chins, looked at us, shook their heads. We heard things. -Fae Myenne Ng, Bone
Thus begins Fae Myenne Ng's excellent novel about three sisters growing up in San Francisco's Chinatown. The story that everyone knows is how the middle sister, Ona, committed suicide by jumping off of the Nam, a local housing project officially named the Nam Ping Yuen. The novel tells of the struggle of the narrator, the eldest sister Leila, and her mother, stepfather and sister to deal with this death and the guilt they all feel. Mah, the mother, feels that it's a result of bad luck brought on by the affair she had with her boss. Leon, the father, thinks the tragedy struck because he violated his vow to ship his father's bones back to China. The sisters are sure that they could have stopped it if they'd had just one more conversation with her. But these explanations, of course, prove unsatisfactory and the story unfolds almost like a mystery as Leila's memory flashes back to reconstruct this family's life and the chain of events that must somehow have lead Ona to that rooftop.
But this novel is more than just a Chinese version of Ordinary People. It often seems that American Culture has only two versions of the Chinese that it trots out over and over. In crime melodramas they are always either the evil Chinese warlord or the chopsocky sidekick. In everything else, Chinese Americans are two dimensional drones--hard working, barely human, super successful, over achievers--who practically define the American Dream.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 4, 1998
Format: Paperback
Having been exposed to San Francisco's Chinatown since I was a very small child I was moved by the graceful and melencholic story in Bone. For many years I was a cab driver in San Francisco and one of my favorite places for buisness was in Chinatown. I am a white person with a classic "anglo" background and have rarely seen beyond the public surfaces that the Chinese community shows. So I have a degree of curiosity about the culture from five decades of exposure and the appreciation of an outsider. I am intimately familiar with the images, sounds and smells. I know where the mah jong parlors are in basements in alleys, I know the restraunts, the drug stores and sewing factories with considerable familiarity. This book took me inside all the familiar exteriors that I know so well. I believed every word and felt every breath and heard every inflection. It was a book I savored and read slowly for the poignant dignity of the reality behind the storefronts and and exteriors. It was as good a look and as well written as I believe anyone could do. Someday I'll read it again. This year I'll give it as a Christmas present to those I know will be able to most appreciate this really good and extremely well written book.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Morgan Wilson on April 12, 2000
Format: Paperback
"Bone," by Fae Myenne Ng, uses family values to portray a Chinese family coping with and adapting to an American life in the 1970's. This is an intricate story of three sisters and their struggle to create their own lives in America. Adapting to a new life and culture is an almost insurmountable task to these sisters. Nina, one of the three, moves to New York city and gradually separates herself from her family. Ona commits suicide and leaves her family with a tragic loss. Lei, who has a different father from her sisters, lives a fairly unique life trying to assist her family's needs. Ma, the mother of the three, desperately tries to re-create her life in America. Within her struggle to change her life, she marries Leon to gain her citizenship. Ma strives to continue to lead her family using traditional Chinese values, yet falls short. As each member of the family progresses throughout her struggles, readers will grasp and possibly understand the pain and suffering it takes to maintain family values and conquer change.
In "Bone," Fae Myenne Ng uses a unique structure to tell the story of a Chinese- American family adjusting to changing times. When told by Lei, the order of the chapters is backwards, while other chapters go forward in time. The element of time adds to the overall feeling of a personal narrative, because the details flow as if Lei remembers them gradually, Ng's use of structure makes Lei's story understandable, personal, and gives it a good sense of continuity, just as a narrative should.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By C. R. Soto on November 30, 2007
Format: Paperback
Bone, a novel by Fae Myenne Ng is a story of a Chinese-American woman facing her internal struggles of Westernization, familial obligations, and the unexplained nature of her sister's suicide. The story moves in flash back pattern that at times can confuse the reader, but for the most part helps to convey an Eastern approach to very Western problems. The author focuses on issues faced by first generation Chinese-American children dealing with their parents and more specifically addresses the angst and loss that an entire family feels after suicide. No character is free from self doubt, and Ng does a great job of conveying varied internal struggles faced by young and old, alike.
A particular theme that resonates throughout the novel Bone is that of searching for something that all of the characters might never find. It is evident that the narrator, Leila, is searching for the reason behind her sister's suicide and for the ability to relinquish responsibility and control over her parents' lives. Her mother, affectionately referred to as Mah, is searching for a stable life beyond the back-breaking work of sewing factories or the uncertainty of owning her own business amidst the chaos of America. Leila's step-father, Leon, is searching for the American dream of prosperity and success supposedly granted to anyone who is willing to work hard enough to achieve the goal. Finally, Leila's surviving sister, Nina, is searching for an identity that does not correlate with her Chinese heritage and customs.
These themes are created through the plot of the book. All of the main characters are portrayed as facing their own search, but there is never really any resolution presented. Leila will never know why her sister took her own life.
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