Saturday, June 06, 2009

Bound (MG, YA)

Napoli, Donna Jo. 2004. Bound. 186 pages.

Xing Xing squatted by the water, silent and unmoving. Her stillness was a prayer.

I had a few issues with Bound. It went places I didn't want to go--a girl killing blind, baby racoons (kits) for dinner, oozing foot sores on an older sister, a pet racoon attacking said sores and biting off toes, etc. But for those with less sensitive sensibilities, Bound could be a charming Chinese Cinderella.

Set in ancient China, Bound is the story of Xing Xing, a young girl who is bound to her step-mother (well, her father's second wife). She is called "The Lazy One" and ordered to wait on her stepmother and older sister (half-sister). She fetches the water, chops the wood, tends the fire, cooks the meals, empties the chamber pot, cleans their cave, etc. Menial tasks to be sure. And while the stepmother does make her work, this stepmother isn't quite as cruel (in some ways) as the traditional story goes. (In other ways, however, she's worse.) Her older sister, Wei Ping is little better than a cripple. Her bound feet are not only painful but infected. She's in constant pain, her mother is in denial about the situation, and she's generally cranky. Not that I'd blame her. If my feet were bound, I had multiple infections and sores and oozing spots, I'd be full-out cranky too.

The home is brightened up for a little while when Xing Xing brings home a baby racoon (a kit) born blind. She'd murdered his two siblings for dinner. And her mother is skinning them as Wei Ping begins exclaiming about how wonderful it would be to have a cute little pet. She also brings home a fish. Wei Ping loves her new pets. And as they begin to grow, her mood begins to lighten. (She eventually sets the fish free when it grows too big for the bucket/bowl. You don't want to know about the raccoon. Trust me.)

But circumstances don't stay light for long. After a few too many graphic scenes (at least for me) Xing Xing is sent along with some green, unripened figs (or some other fruit like that) to fetch a traveling doctor. She does. And she learns much along the way. She returns with the knowledge of how to help her sister's feet heal--at least temporarily. (I'm not sure how healthy bound feet can ever be.)

Anyway, this being a Cinderella-tale, you know where the story is heading. It is an interesting novel. I thought it was well done, in a way. I just didn't want to go many of the places it went.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Anonymous said...

I had never heard of this one, but your review makes me curious about it. The subject certainly is interesting - although, in a way, horrible. Anyway, I'm taking note of this one. Thanks!

Zibilee said...

I have been wanting to read this one for awhile, but haven't gotten around to it. I am excited that you reviewed it, and think that based on your description, it would make an interesting and sort of dark read.