Ruth's mother, LuLing, was born in China and raised by a horribly disfigured nursemaid called Precious Auntie. There is a mystery surrounding the identity of LuLing's mother. LuLing's husband died young, so it was just Ruth and her mother in her family as she grew up. As an adult, Ruth has great difficulty negotiating intimate relationships. She has lived with a divorced man and his two teenaged daughters for 10 years, but still doesn't feel like she belongs there. Meanwhile, she worries about her mother, who is developing Alzheimer's. LuLing and Ruth are both complex, interesting women.
The first two parts were excellent but the final part seemed rushed and everything gets resolved into an unrealistically happy ending. Still, I would recommend this to women who enjoy reading about mother-daughter relationships. That is definitely Amy Tan's greatest strength.