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Story Review: A Sheltered Woman by Yiyun Li

a sheltered woman

The emergence of this short story was propelled by a notebook bought by the writer from a garage sale when she first came to the USA.

I admit that there’s not much to go on with that introduction, but we have to remember stories like ‘Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close’, wherein the premise was prompted by an unknown key, just saying.

Auntie Mei had long ago accepted that she had, despite her best intentions, become one of those people who talk to themselves when the world is not listening.

To fully appreciate this story, one has to comprehend the concept behind maternal instinct. I am not suggesting the idea of (biological) motherhood. Simply tap your compassion, your emotional capacity to care, specifically for an infant.

For the great part, I enjoyed reading Aunt Mei’s unspoken thoughts. Her honesty and adherence to principles are admirable. She has a sharp wit and focused undertaking of matters at hand. Her strictness with efficiency made her a well-sought nanny by many expecting parents. She upholds her reputation so well that she had a hundred and thirty-one babies on record under her belt.

Not knowing them, Auntie Mei, too, had the good fortune of not wanting to know anyone who came after: her husband; her co-workers at various Chinese restaurants during her yearlong migration from New York to San Francisco; the babies and the mothers she took care of, who had become only recorded names in her notebook.

Aunt Mei’s personal history is not entirely damaging. Nonetheless, it is emotionally formative in a resilient sense. Her life is greatly influenced by her maternal side of her family. The main core of her upbringing is made up of abandonment and resentment, which brought grave effects on the male members of her family.

As a hired nanny, Aunt Mei’s choice to care for mothers and babies strictly for only a month is not a product of apathy, but a higher recognition to hurt that may be inflicted on people she cared for. This, if you give it rational thought, is a noble act.

She had, unlike her mother and her grandmother, talked herself into being a woman with an ordinary fate. When she moved on to the next place, she would leave no mystery or damage behind; no one in this world would be disturbed by having known her.

Rating: 4/ 5 stars


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