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Bone: A Novel Paperback – December 3, 1993

3.8 out of 5 stars 51 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This remarkable first novel explores the aspirations, struggles and emotional scars of a family living in San Francisco's Chinatown.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: HarpPeren; Reprint edition (December 3, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006097592X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060975920
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #553,042 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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I was assigned this novel for an Asian Literature course. I really enjoyed this novel. The type of book I can finish in one sitting! I consider myself a rather slow reader as I like to critique things and make notes, but this novel took me about 6 hours to finish.

The story surrounds three daughters, a step-father, and a mother. The male character "Leon" is the biological father of two girls (Ona & Nina), however, he is the step-father of the central character "Leila," but the two are very close. He is closer to her than to his biological daughters.

This is a story about infidelity, life, loss, and self sovereignty. This book tests the strength and bond of a family after the suicide of a daughter/sister, and a cheating spouse.

Definitely a good story line!
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