A few days later, GaoLing phones Ruth. She reached out to family members in China and asked them to do some research. They confirmed that LuLing’s mother was named Liu Xin Gu. Her father was Dr. Gu, but the sound for “gu” can mean several things, including “bone.” Ruth realizes that she can finally have a clear connection to her grandmother.

Summary: Epilogue

On August 12, one year after the story began, Ruth again observes her annual silence. She has not lost her voice, but she chooses to focus on writing rather than speaking. LuLing recently reached out to apologize for some of her past behavior, and Ruth reassured her that she loved and forgave her. With her new understanding of her family history, Ruth feels more compassion for her mother and herself. She is now writing a book of her own.

Analysis: Part Three: Chapters One–Three & Epilogue

Surprisingly, Ruth’s decision to become closer to her mother affects her relationship with Art before it affects her relationship with LuLing. Art has grown accustomed to having all of his needs met in the relationship, and he is used to having Ruth put herself second. Therefore, it surprises him when Ruth moves out to be with LuLing. Without Ruth around to oversee daily domestic responsibilities, Art and his daughters quickly realize just how valuable Ruth has been and how little they have appreciated her. Art’s new appreciation for Ruth causes him to reflect on the emotional dynamic in their relationship. He is able to communicate that he feels like Ruth has never been fully open with him, and Ruth, having just read her mother’s manuscript, can recognize the truth in this. When she reads the manuscript, Ruth realizes how much her mother has hidden and what this has meant for Ruth. Ruth has unwittingly imitated LuLing’s behavior of hiding true feelings and desires. In fact, as Ruth admits to Art, she doesn’t even know what she truly wants.

Once she understands who LuLing truly is, Ruth can begin the work of trying to understand her identity and what she wants her future to look like. Her relationship with Art has always been partially stalled, but now it can move forward. Through this relationship, Tan implies that when people are missing a connection to their past, they cannot fully embrace their future. After a trial separation, Ruth and Art both become more grateful for one another and more committed to moving forward in their relationship. This deepened partnership allows them to work together on their plan to move LuLing into an assisted living facility. Significantly, Art is the one who comes up with this idea.

Art is also the one who orchestrates the plan to deceive LuLing. On one hand, the deception is relatively harmless and actually improves LuLing’s quality of life. On the other, the plan relies on a lie at a moment when the plot of the novel shows just how important honesty is. Ruth finally knows LuLing for the first time, with no secrets and no lies, and yet she immediately introduces a falsehood into their relationship. Indeed, Ruth begins to enjoy the plot to trick LuLing because it helps her feel closer to Art. Once her relationship with Art improves, he arguably becomes the most important person in her life. This might represent a healthy maturation in which Ruth can finally separate her identity from her relationship with her mother, but it also marks a moment where she chooses loyalty to Art over a truly honest relationship with LuLing. At the same time, the deception is only possible because of how well Ruth knows LuLing, and, in this sense, it reflects the intimacy of truly knowing someone’s character and what is important to them.

Mr. Tang represents the possibility of a new start for LuLing and shows the effect that honesty and transparency can have. Even before he meets her, Mr. Tang is infatuated with LuLing, which shows that admiration can develop based on knowledge of someone’s past rather than their present. A close bond grows between the elderly couple because Mr. Tang is the first person in years who truly knows everything there is to know about LuLing. In a sense, that makes her feel as if he has been part of her life for years. It is also telling that when Mr. Tang knows the truth about LuLing’s past, he falls in love with her. LuLing has hidden her secrets for years because she believed people would shame and reject her if they knew the truth. She inherited this legacy of shame and secrecy because of how Precious Auntie was forced to hide the truth about her life. However, with both Ruth and Mr. Tang, the truth is what makes people see LuLing clearly and respect and admire her for everything she has lived through.