Then: The Bonesetter's Daughter
By Amy Tan
400 pages; Ballantine
In 2001 we read Amy Tan's The Bonesetter's Daughter, another of the beloved author's great mother-daughter sagas about the clash of worlds old and new—and the different perspectives that exist within any family.
Now: The Long Song
By Andrea Levy
320 pages; Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Andrea Levy's shimmering new novel The Long Song, set in 19th-century Jamaica, marks a similar coming to terms with the past by women and their children. Writing her memoirs, the elderly "Miss July"—a former slave named for one of the months her mother had been taught to spell—grew up in the great house of a plantation after her mistress plucked her from her mother on a whim. But July's is not the only version of events. There are also frequent entries from her son, Thomas, who had been abandoned by July as an infant; he quarrels with the facts of her possible fictions and questions her memories. Shifting styles of storytelling evoke the voices of Tan's generations. The novel also offers a unique portrayal of an island where a mother's secrets become the history of us all. — Celia McGee
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