Falling Leaves- A Memoir by Adeline Yen Mah

Leah Courtney
Falling Leaves: The Memoir of an Unwanted Chinese Daughter

This is the memoir of "an unwanted Chinese daughter."  Adeline Yen Mah tells the story of her journey through a difficult childhood into adulthood. " Luo ye gui gen.  (Falling leaves return to their roots.)" says Yen Mah of the journey she takes to finally come to terms with the relationships within her family.

Adeline was the fifth child born into a prominent Chinese family.  Her mother's death postpartum and her father's remarriage to her stepmother (Niang) would dramatically alter the course of her life.  Niang is the "wicked stepmother" in every sense of the word, continually seeking to shame, punish, and cause discord among Adeline and her siblings and, later, her own birth children.  Growing up, Adeline is shunned by her own siblings and treated viciously by her father and stepmother.  The backdrop to her personal life story is the history of China and the Communist regime throughout World War 2 and beyond.

I've mentioned before that I enjoy memoirs- one of my favorite genres.  I found Adeline's story captivating and often heart-wrenching.  Yen Mah does a good job weaving the historical events of the time into her own life story.  Occasionally I was confused with timing because she would talk about an historical event and then later go back over that same time period relating something from her life.  But, I thought most of the story was easy to follow and a very good read.

Leah Courtney / Author & Editor

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