A Tale of Two Grandmothers by Todd Rutherford

Throughout the world, the one relative that a child looks forward to seeing is his grandmother. There are a variety of reasons why this could be the case. For example, grandmothers fill up their grandchildren’s wallets with cash–during the holidays-buy them an assortment of clothes, and best of all, side with them in an argument between the grandchildren and the parents. Undoubtedly, this is an archetypal perception and is dependent on each individual; however, the general consensus is that grandmothers usually look out for their grandchildren. In Alicia Hou’s The Mirror of Karma and the 4 Sisters, both spectrums of grandmothers are displayed: one good and one evil.

The book revolves around four sisters: Gi-Gi Chen, Lily, Mei-Ling, and Mimi Kong. Lily and Mei Ling are abandoned due to the one-child policy. The paternal grandmother of Gi-Gi, Lily, and Mei-Ling is the reason that their mother Lotus divorced her first husband, spawning a family separation of over two decades, and a whole lot of bad karma. In fact, their paternal grandmother is so hell bent on having a male child that she intends on killing Mei-Ling when she finds out that the baby is not male. On her death bed, she reveals the truth to her son-and the sisters’ father-stating, “Dear Son, I am dying. I want to say sorry to you. The reason why your ex-wife left you is because of me. Please find her before I die. I want to say sorry to her, too. I did a big mistake, forcing her to give you a son. I was too greedy. It was my fault. Mei-Ling was born three years before Willy. When I found out the child was not a boy, I almost killed her.”

On the contrary, The Mirror of Karma and the 4 Sisters depicts the maternal grandmother, Lady Kong, as the woman who instills moral values in her grandchildren. For one, she demands that her grandchildren remain virgins until marriage. Values that their own mother Lotus perhaps was not able to instill in them because of her own guilt are embedded by their grandmother. For example, she taught her grandchildren to

1. Believe in karma, what you gave is what you’ll get in return.
2. To treat all women like your sisters, never steal your sisters’ husbands.
3. Never be too greedy because you will lose it all later.

Grandmother Kong’s advice to remain a virgin until marriage improves Lily’s relationship with Nicky and prevents Gi-Gi Chen from marrying another woman’s husband. The bottom line that Hou outlines is the exponential difference between the paternal and maternal grandmothers. While one is intent on abiding by stringent Chinese cultural rules-even if it means sacrificing her own granddaughter Mei Ling-the other tries to teach her grandchildren the proper way to live.

Ultimately, there are so many people that play an influential role in an individual’s life. It is important to have a strong grasp of what is moral and immoral so that one is not easily swayed. For that, the loving and kind grandmother-like Lady Kong-is always helpful.

Find out more about The Mirror of Karma and the 4 Sisters by visiting www.aliciahou.com

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