Part 1, Chapter 2 Summary
Ruth’s job as a ghostwriter involves her turning rough drafts or other people’s ideas into books they want to publish. Ruth’s clients are usually professionals, such as psychologists who have experience in their fields but do not have the skills to write. So Ruth takes notes from her clients and turns their ideas into marketable books. Ruth is paid for her services but seldom receives any credit. She is the secret behind other authors’ successes. Her profession will become more significant as this novel progresses—LuLing’s story also involves secrets and ghosts.
At Ruth’s mother’s seventy-seventh birthday, LuLing and Ruth’s Auntie Gal discussed Ruth’s profession. LuLing thought the term ghostwriter sounded as if her daughter were a spy. Auntie Gal likened it to being a stenographer. Ruth was hoping for a little more appreciation for her work, but she had trouble explaining things to her mother and her aunt, so she let them continue in their misconceptions of what she does.
Ruth drives to her mother’s home in the Sunset district in San Francisco. LuLing owns a two-story duplex, the upstairs being where Ruth was raised. A tenant lives on the first floor. Recently the tenant has complained of LuLing’s strange behavior, such as accusing her of not paying the rent. Ruth listens to the tenant; this is yet another incident that makes Ruth worry about her mother’s mental abilities. On this day, Ruth has come to take LuLing to the doctor’s office. As she drives, Ruth reflects on her mother’s health. She recalls how physically robust LuLing has been for most of her life.
Although Ruth has seen signs of forgetfulness in her mother, she tends to rationalize them away. However, on this particular day LuLing tells Ruth that she has won a million dollars; she truly believes a mass-mailed advertisement that has told her of her good fortune. Ruth cannot deny that her mother’s logic is failing. Also LuLing argues with Ruth about the time for the doctor’s appointment and blames Ruth for making her late. LuLing...
(The entire section is 539 words.)