Your Fiction Reading List: Dementia and Caregiving

The Bonesetter’s Daughter by Amy Tan

Amy Tan often writes about mother-daughter relationships, particularly the unique relationships between Chinese immigrant mothers and their American-born daughters. You may have heard about The Joy Luck Club, Tan’s first bestseller that eventually became a film by the same name. In The Bonesetter’s Daughter, middle-aged daughter Ruth is navigating some new challenges in her relationship with her mother, LuLing, who is certainly in the early stages of dementia at the beginning of the novel, despite both women’s denial of this fact. LuLing gives Ruth some of her writings, which tell stories from their family history that Ruth had never known. The novel unfolds as Ruth reads more into LuLing’s past, even as the mother is losing her grip on the present. In addition to the wonderfully compelling story of LuLing’s life in China, this novel addresses several issues that will be familiar to those who have encountered dementia:

Caregiver denial. We see Ruth trying to blame her mother’s memory slips and strange behaviors on depression or a “mini-stroke.” She doesn’t want to face the possibility that her mother has Alzheimer’s Disease.

Money problems. As LuLing’s dementia becomes clear, Ruth worries about how to make sure her mom isn’t cheated out of money and, eventually, how to pay for her care.

Different cultural attitudes about medical treatment. LuLing and her sister are both less than eager about American-style diagnosis and treatment. In fact, early in the novel, Ruth tells her mother’s doctor, “you’ll have to tell her the antidepressants are ginseng or po chai pills.”

How to convince a loved one to move into assisted living. This happens later in the novel so I won’t give too much detail, but I can say the transition takes some clever manipulation. (Doesn’t it usually, though?)

So, this novel has a lot to say about dementia and caregiving, without being about those topics or purporting to be a self-help or reference book. I’ll stop here now so I can post this in time for you to go to the library this weekend, but you can watch for another post early next week on another book on the topic of dementia: Still Alice by Lisa Genova. Have you read The Bonesetter’s Daughter? What did you think? P.S. Visit to purchase this novel in paperback or Kindle format!]]>


  1. Ann Becker-Schutte (@DrBeckerSchutte) on August 24, 2012 at 4:27 pm


    Thanks! I am always looking for new things to read, and this sounds fascinating. I’m adding it to my library request list.


    • soundscapemusictherapy on August 25, 2012 at 8:16 pm

      I hope you enjoy it!

  2. JoAnn Jordan (@JordanEM) on August 24, 2012 at 10:57 pm

    Having enjoyed “The Joy Luck Club” I’ll have to check out this book. Thanks!

    • soundscapemusictherapy on August 25, 2012 at 8:15 pm

      I hope you like it!

  3. Vicki on August 25, 2012 at 4:25 pm

    Thank you, Rachelle for the suggestion. I am a caregiver and a music therapist, also looking for ways to help me through this journey. Thanks for the suggestion. I picked up the book at the library.

    • soundscapemusictherapy on August 25, 2012 at 8:15 pm

      Awesome! I hope you enjoy it.

  4. redrose856 on August 27, 2012 at 4:47 pm

    think i will kindle it!! sound great!!

    • soundscapemusictherapy on August 27, 2012 at 9:29 pm

      Yes, this one will probably come closer to your own caregiving journey!

  5. Carolyn Stone on August 31, 2012 at 12:41 pm

    Thanks, Rachelle. I have heard of the book, but I never knew what it was about. I’ll check it out. On a similar note, do you know “Still Alice” by Lisa Genova? Genova is a neuroscientist, and she writes very well about the experience of a Harvard professor and her family as she develops Alzheimer’s disease. Depicts family dynamics well.

    • soundscapemusictherapy on August 31, 2012 at 8:46 pm

      I think you’ll like my next post. 🙂

  6. lyndabuitrago on September 13, 2012 at 1:27 pm

    This novel sounds so helpful for someone in a caregiving situation to not feel like they are alone on what can be a difficult journey.

    • soundscapemusictherapy on September 18, 2012 at 12:19 pm

      I agree.

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