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These four mothers hope the mix of "American circumstances with Chinese character" will give their daughters better lives.In each section of the novel, June recounts her late mother's fantastic tales on evenings after "every bowl had been washed and the Formica table had been wiped down twice." Every time Suyuan tells her daughter about Kweilin, she invents a new ending.But one night she reveals the real ending—how she lost her twin daughters while fleeing the Japanese invasion: "Your father is not my first husband.
The tales, particularly those set in China, are by turns beautiful and harrowing.
The first story begins two months after Jing-mei "June" Woo loses her mother, Suyuan, to a brain aneurysm.
The prickly division of household expenses reveals the impoverishment of her marriage.
Her mother, Daisy, was born to a wealthy family and left Shanghai and a disastrous marriage right before the Communist takeover in 1949.
Waverly Jong A chess champion as a child, Waverly grows up to become a successful tax attorney.
She worries about her mother's opinion of her white fiancé. Clair Generous Lena shares her mother's powers of intuition but remains powerless to act on them.
A neurosurgeon gave no explanation other than bad luck.
This twin tragedy spurred Daisy Tan to hoist anchor and move the family to Switzerland.
Tan and her two brothers were raised in Santa Clara, California. At age eight, her treatment of the theme "What the Library Means to Me" won her a transistor radio and mention in the local newspaper.
When Tan was 14, her brother Peter and her father died within seven months of each other, both from brain tumors.