The major themes of the book are personal rejection that Adeline experienced throughout her childhood by family, the time she spent learning and her great gifts for learning and connecting with people outside of her family, each person’s impact who showed kind support when she necessitated it, and the great cruelty of family which seemed to build like a powerful pressure in the book. This was a book about resilience of the human spirit. How Adeline did not allow the cruelty to discourage her entirely by applying her skills and focus to build rewards and confidence in friendship, and how she did not become bitter, beaten, or cruel as a person herself within her family culture was absorbing. For readers, her support from Aunt Baba and Ye Ye was just enough to keep her going.
The book is a series of short stories, each more incredulous than the last where her giving, affectionate heart yearns for love and support and is crushed by her immediate family. It is hard enough to be orphaned of one’s mother without being rejected and psychologically tortured by everyone else. The way that Adeline believes in herself and is a warrior for good graces and a better life and stands up for the crying young sister or the loyalty of grandfather Ye Ye gave me courage. Given her obstacles and life circumstances, she builds a new future for herself from her own talents and skills. I am inspired by her heart and defiance of the cruel Niang, the unsupportive father and siblings, and the complicity of so many boarders and servants. I learned about suffering on one’s own at a whole other level. The book gave me power to understand and persevere.
This Cinderella story of unlikely courage and character is timeless and not just for girls. The book’s storyline is perfect for me in my life and I will treasure Adeline as a hero overcoming great odds. I will read her encouragements and letter from Aunt Baba regularly, and know that my story can be the same.
January 15, 2012