Half and Half Summary and Analysis
Rose Hsu Jordan: narrator of this story, daughter of An-mei and George, wife of Ted Jordan; a free-lance production assistant for graphic artists
Ted Jordan: Rose’s husband, a dermatologist
Mrs. Jordan: Ted’s mother
George Hsu: An-mei’s father
Janice, Ruth, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Bing Hsu: Rose’s sisters and brothers
Rose, the narrator, describes a “white leatherette Bible” her mother uses to prop up one leg of a crooked table. After spending more than 20 years on the floor, it is still “clean white.” As she looks at it, Rose wonders how she will tell An-mei that she and Ted are getting a divorce. She knows her mother will insist that she try to save her marriage.
At the beginning of Rose and Ted’s relationship, both mothers object to their dating because of the difference in race. Their parents’ opposition draws them closer together, and they are married just before Ted begins medical school.
Rose and Ted have an unusual relationship: He makes all the decisions because she wants him to. Ted becomes dissatisfied with this arrangement after losing a malpractice suit. He begins to insist that Rose choose. Finally, he tells her he wants a divorce. Rose is devastated.
Rose reflects on her mother’s faith, which An-mei mispronounces as “fate.” Rose wonders whether hope might be all that people can really have, and says the day she started wondering about this was the same day An-mei lost her faith in God.
The story flashes back to the day when Rose, 14, and her family go to the beach. When her father decides to go fishing and her sisters race down the beach, Rose watches her four brothers. The three older boys play together, but Bing, age 4, wanders down the beach. Rose warns him to stay away from the water.
Later Bing walks out on the reef where his father is fishing. As Rose watches, he falls into the water and is never seen again.
The next morning An-mei, who has never driven before, takes Rose back to the reef along with the white Bible, a thermos, and a teacup. An-mei holds the Bible and prays aloud in Chinese for the return of Bing, alive. At the end of her prayer, she waits. Three times she thinks she sees him, but each time “Bing” becomes a mass of seaweed.
An-mei puts the Bible down and takes the thermos and teacup to the edge of the water. She pours sweetened tea from the thermos into the teacup and throws it into the sea, and she adds a blue sapphire ring. For the next hour all they see is seaweed; then An-mei glances down the beach and sees Bing walking toward them. Rose does, too. Or they think they do. He lights a cigarette, and they realize he is a stranger.
Rose wants to leave, but An-mei is undaunted. She believes Bing is in a cave in the reef. She pulls a large inner tube out of the trunk of the car, ties the line from her husband’s fishing pole around it and throws it into the sea, holding on to the pole. She tells Rose that the inner tube will go where Bing is and help him out of the cave and back to them. Eventually the line snaps, and An-mei and Rose scramble to watch it travel across the cove. A wave forces it first against the wall and then into a cavern under the surface. The tube floats in and out several times until finally it comes out “torn and lifeless.” When that happens, An-mei abandons the search.
The story returns to the present. Rose never expected to find Bing that day, and she does not expect to save her marriage. Her mother insists that she must try and leaves Rose alone to think about why. Rose says she had known Bing was in danger and did nothing; she also knew her marriage was in danger and did nothing. In a moment of insight, she realizes that faith balances the loss caused by fate. She thinks that An-mei still pays attention to the loss of Bing. To confirm her suspicions, she takes the Bible out from under the table leg and opens it to find what An-mei wrote in it before she used it to prop up the table leg: Bing’s name appears in pencil on...
(The entire section is 1,270 words.)