‘Falling Leaves’, is a memoir of an unwanted daughter, the story of Adeline Yen Mahthe youngest child from an affluent Chinese family. Adeline’s mother dies shortly after giving her birth. Her life of abuse starts soon after birth as she is blamed for her mother’s death. Her father remarries Jeanne Prosperi, beautiful 17-year-old daughter of a French father and a Chinese mother. The new step-mother is extremely manipulative towards her step children.
Adeline is verbally abused and insulted by her stepmother without any objection from her father. In fact, her father never interferes, and Adeline is sent to a boarding school. Aunt Baba, her father’s older sister is her only refuge. Adeline struggles for her independence and moves to England and later to the United States as she becomes a physician and a writer.
The narration brings out the pathos of a child who is never accepted or loved by her family, a family that seems extremely cruel and selfish. Falling Leaves is a powerful story that gets etched in the reader’s mind. This story sketches the journey of a small kid journey to adulthood through most unusual circumstances. Realities both inside her home and outside conspire to make her life extremely difficult.
The book has a strong tone and explores the complexities of Chinese’s society and family relationship in those times. The Chinese aphorism “falling leaves return to their roots” forms underlying theme of this story as Adeline accepts her roots by writing her memoir.