A woman has brain surgery that lasts 14 hours, far longer than her surgeon expects. She survives the operation, but the first sentence she speaks after she gains consciousness is spoken in a dialect that nobody in the family understands. Like everyone in Hong Kong, the woman’s family speaks Cantonese. Some older members also use Hakka, a dialect of the Guangdong Province. So when the woman starts talking in Chiu Chow, her family is worried. Is it possible for someone to lose the ability to speak a language she’s been using for 50 years after undergoing brain surgery? The woman’s daughter is not convinced this is simply a side effect of surgery, and decides to investigate the cause behind the mystery. She discovers a chapter of her mother’s life that has been hidden from her family, learning from her mother’s older brother that his sister spent her early childhood and adolescence in Chiu Chow, away from her family to escape war and starvation. The story’s theme is about making life choices. What could have happened in this woman’s past that would now block her language ability? Her daughter intends to find out the buried secrets in the fascinating novel Mother’s Tongue: A Story of Forgiving and Forgetting.
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