If you can imagine a 7-hour plane ride in which you're seated next to a shrill, drunk woman with an inflated ego and a full-blown case of Munchhausen's disease, then you have some idea of what this book is like.
The book is an almost, but not quite, comedic farce. It's not just the author's outrageous claims, (her three-year-old was reading Sartre and understanding the deeper concepts, too, no doubt) but also her complete lack of self-awareness. She verbally abused her daughters, 'inspiring' them to be number one in *everything*, yet admitted to giving up tennis as an adult because, "the pressure of competition was too great". Then there were her bizarre reasoning (she forced them to take piano and harp lessons because playing the drums leads to drugs. Everyone knows that, duh.) Even though Chua never learned how to play the violin, she studied books and watched the music tutors like a hawk so that she could stand over her children while they practiced and instruct them on how to do it right. Finally, there is the constant complaining about American culture: Americans are too fat, too stupid, too lazy, and too provincial (and yet she never moved back to China...why?)
The biggest laugh came when Chua realizes that the family dog, a Samoyed, was not ranked as the smartest breed in the world. Determined to prove that *her* dog was better than all the other dogs, she drills the poor creature over and over again to make it behave perfectly (did I mention she was an expert dog trainer even though she'd only owned one dog in her entire life?)
Chinese, British, Canadian, American...I've seen this kind of mom many times before. I'm sure her kids *are* highly accomplished musicians (they should be - they were forced to practice at least three hours every day), but the reason they were successful was because their mother bullied everyone in her path. No doubt those teachers and tutors gave Chua everything she wanted just to make her *shut up and go away already*!
The saddest part of the book, to me, was when Chua's daughters make her birthday cards and Chua 'rejects' the cards, insults her daughters for not creating better cards, and rips up the cards they made for her. I kept thinking that those pathetic cards were, in reality, true expressions of how those girls felt about her. They didn't love her, so they made her crappy cards.
I almost gave the book one star, but there was a glimmer of hope for the author by the end of the book. I doubt she changed her beliefs (why would she? After all, she's an expert on everything), but at least she changed her behavior. A little bit.