Reading this book--which I did over the course of an afternoon--has been indescribable. I have never been hit with so many truths so solidly, so quickly. Whether you agree with her on the differences between "Western" and "Chinese" parenting (I don't) or her evaluation of either one (I still don't), this book is still the best articulation of a strand of existential angst that twines so intimately with familial love that it might as well all be one thing.
I wish my mother was still alive so she could read this book, honestly. I know for a fact her children broke her heart many times over--just as, glaringly obviously, Amy Chua's children have broken hers many times over. That much is clear--"clear," in fact, may be the under-statement of the century. But when she talks about her faith in her children's strength--and they prove her right every single time--there's some kind of recompense. I hope my mother would have said she felt the same. I hope we made up for the heartbreaks eventually.
It's also worth noting--or giving a warning about--the way cancer strikes their family. I have found it hard to bounce back from the stiff-upper-lip-ing it through that one attack, the one that killed my mother. It's been two years and sometimes I get these wells of sorrow still--I wish I had done that before, when she could still see it or She'd know what to do or something like that. Every description of a family dealing with cancer has seemed unutterably false to me. Every expression of sympathy has seemed wildly inaccurate. But this book...she got it right on the money. I'd say more on this topic...but I don't think I can. Read the book. She says it much better anyway.
As a final note, can I just stand up for second children for a minute? My sister was true to form: very diligent, very dedicated, very much on the side of the "virtuous circle" system. I am, despite an unruly childhood, her equal now. We're both on our ways to PhDs in English at prestigious Research One schools. In our family, it was the third child, the only boy, who bucked the system. In fact, I don't think middle kids rebel in anywhere near as vehement a way as youngest siblings.
So, a poll for your readerly pleasure (and my own curiosity):