Thursday, October 05, 2006

Wilma Wall's The Jade Bracelet ~ Reviewed

The Jade Bracelet
By Wilma Wall
Published by Kregel
ISBN 0-8254-3948-5

A riveting story of three women who are bound by family ties yet torn apart by conflict. Elsa Meier and her mother, Rachel, are as different as east is from the west. Elsa—lively, willful, and resentful of her mother's domination—struggles for acceptance on her own terms. Born in China but not Chinese; American, yet foreign to America, she is torn between cultures.

Rachel, a reluctant missionary, is eager to return to America and the life she remembers. But the death of her beloved husband causes an even deeper rift between her and Elsa. After Elsa marries, against her mother's advice, Rachel turns to Elsa's daughter, Crystal, for solace.

Crystal, outwardly obedient, is trapped in a tug-of-war between her mother and grandmother. Will a return trip to China and a long-lost jade bracelet bring these three women to reconciliation?

Wall pens a gripping tale of competitive relationships between mothers and daughters. The child Elsa is culturally Chinese and at hem among the people. They are her people; her friends. When tragedy strikes the family and the Communists invade, they return to America. Elsa is burdened with guilt and at the same time resentful of her mother.

Unlike any book I've read, I found The Jade Bracelet to be as riveting as promised. Elsa wormed her way into my heart; I understood her mother's angst, and I cheered for Crystal. The culture of China in the 1930s came alive through Elsa's eyes, drawing the reader deeper into the story. The superstitious tales told by her Amah and frowned on by Rachel, deliciously entranced little Elsa and her younger brother, Jasper. I was fascinated by the custom called Kerchieh … one mustn't accept an invitation the first time or one would seem too eager. Wall credibly portrays the difficulty Elsa has in assimilating in to the American culture. When Elsa becomes a mother, she finds herself in competition with her mother for her daughter's affection—and her mother's approval.

Haunting and deeply moving novel, The Jade Bracelet is highly recommended.

Reviewed by Ane Mulligan

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