Chapter 19 ends with an elaborate spirit ceremony performed by a Hmong Shaman. Accompanied by his flying horse, the shaman was meant to mark Lia as the child who needed help and was to attempt to return her spirit to her, if that was possible at such a late stage into her illness. Lia’s family knew this, yet they still held on to hope that a miracle would fix their little girl, and they watched as the Shaman “flew” off to find their daughter, who may never be found.
The author’s choice to end the novel on this note, while simultaneously pointing out that the rest of the Lee family had adapted to their new lifestyle was unique. But I think it reflects the life of every immigrant, where the future generations grasp the new culture much faster and better to get acclimated to the new environment. I suppose that this was the author’s message: a balance of the two cultures instead of steeping oneself in one or the other. The issue is that neither party got that message till it was far too late, and even they did, there was, perhaps, an aggressive hold on their opinions which could not be changed.
While I would speak against the community rejecting the Hmong, calling them names, and leaving them to fend for themselves in a surrounding that was unfamiliar and that had few uses for their skill sets, I find it hard to do so in the medical sense. Initially, the disrespect and the lack of effort in communicating the dangers of Lia’s conditions were oversights on the part of the hospital, and the resentment the Lees felt towards the hospital was justified. But that position seemed to get weaker as the historically stubborn Hmong started to take autonomy of Lia’s treatment, perhaps endangering her more.
I think it is easy for me to read the account now, or for the doctors, nurses, and even the author to reflect on it after the tense situation is over and place blame. At the moment, I think the only victim was Lia, as she got lost in the crossfire between her family and the hospital. While the hospital lacked the personal touch, it was her best bet medically, and while her family cared for her and loved her, those were not qualities that could have cured a fatal illness. I do not think this aspect came across, as the author seemed biased towards the Hmong, and for her purposes, it worked. It did get a conversation started about difficult cases like this, and how to handle it, so that another Lia can be prevented.