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Review of Falling Leaves by Adeline Yen Mah

January 14, 2017

Review of Falling Leaves by Adeline Yen Mah
Reviewed by Fiza Pathan


I actually reread this marvellous autobiography for a book club meeting and I am glad I did. The first time I read Adeline Yen Mah’s autobiography was when I was twelve years old way back in 2001. The story of the so called ‘unwanted Chinese daughter’ made me think of my own state in life, as the child who destroyed my mother’s marriage by just being born. In my case, I was the girl child whom my father my father didn’t wish to care for and neither did his family as ‘I was a girl.’ In Adeline’s case, her birth caused the death of her mother which scarred her relationship with her father and with his family forever. Reading this book at age twelve made me feel I was not the only ‘unwanted’ daughter in the world, as someone from China was also going through or had gone through the same pain and rejection that I was and still am going through. Rereading this book at age twenty-seven gave me a deeper understanding of the negative psychological effects that Adeline’s father and step mother had on her and how they scarred her entire life from even beyond the grave and through the actions of their other children. I have no siblings, yet I can still identify with Adeline, as even though she had six siblings, all were up against her, making her childhood a sad and lonely one, just like mine. To overcome disaster and to hope are the main themes of this memoir which make it a life worth the read for a person undergoing the same trauma in their own lives, which is, being rejected by your own family and in all respects having some members of your family as your worst enemies. The Chinese saying that title each chapter resonate beautifully with the narrative, making the autobiography a charming yet startling read. To a lover of history, the lives of the Yen family parallel the life of China as a country through the late 19th century and 20th century which is skillfully written to introduce an amateur to Chinese contemporary history. It took me a week to finish this wonderful book because of illness in the family, but it is only a 275 page book which can easily be read with the least possible effort and which still gives a lot of emotional and reflective material to chew upon. It was indeed nice coming back to Falling Leaves after so many years.

Copyright© 2017 Fiza Pathan

One Comment
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