Winner of the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Prize.
Auntie Mei is a live-in nanny for newborns and their mothers. She has worked for 126 families and looked after 131 babies, one set of clients easily replaced by the next. But the 132nd baby and his mother, Chanel, prompt a crisis in Auntie Mei's life - a tremor that threatens to destroy her resolute detachment.
©2015 Yiyun Li (P)2015 HarperCollins Publishers Limited
"Li inhabits the lives of her characters with such force and compassion that one cannot help but marvel at her remarkable talents." (Junot Díaz)
SPOILEER ALERT - This is ostensibly the story of Auntie Mei who works as a one month nanny with newborns and their nursing mothers, leaving after each baby turns 1 month old. Auntie Mei is currently working for Chanel, a Chinese American wife, whose much older husband is away working, and staying away. The new mother is a reluctant mother, struggling to produce milk. Mei's own upbringing is a strange one, brought up by mother and grandmother, without male influence.
The title is interesting - who is the sheltered woman? and what is she sheltered from? Is it Chanel, is it Mei, was it her mothers, her grandmother? Or all of them. The final line " 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" suggests to me that it is Mei herself you is sheltering herself from her true self by the life she has chosen to lead - a childless woman perpetually working with newborns, only to leave them untouched and untouched by them when they are one month old.
I do like stories which do not have a traditional ending!
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