Falling Leaves, The Memoir of a Unwanted Chinese Daughter, by Adeline Yen Mah

1st Reviewed in 2009


This book is a look at a culture, a country, a family and relationships that just didn't work for any of the children, especially for one young girl, Adeline Yen Mah. She was born in 1937 and grew up in a wealthy Chinese family. Her mother died when she was born and her new mother was Eurasian, with her own children.

Her respect for and commitment and effort to be part of a family, presents an insight into the culture. Her relationships with her siblings as a young girl, and later as a successful women, added a dimension to the cruelty she suffered from both of her parents. 

This Chinese proverb described her life. "When leaves fall down they return to their roots". It was hard to understand why she would have even wanted to return to her roots. It seemed that the real roots in this family was her strength. 

The time setting was in 1949 during the revolution in China. The impact of Mao on society was insightful and interesting. Her father's success under both the old and a new government in Hong Kong suggested that times might get better for the family but it didn't get better for Adeline. She did not find love with either her dad or her stepmother or really with any of her 6 brothers and sisters. An aunt offered her love and encouragement to leave and she did and came to the United States where she was able to have a happy marriage of her own. It was her insights and her successes, seemingly against all odds, that was fascinating. 

A well told story about a young girl and a successful woman who, after it all was completed, the only strength found was in her. 

This book is one that I didn't want to put down. It left me anxious to find out what was coming

Quotes  by Adeline Yen  Mah

“Please believe that one single positive dream is more important than a thousand negative realities"

“I read because I have to. It drives everything else from my mind. It lets me escape to find other world."

“But you can vanquish the demons only when you yourself are convinced of your own worth.”