Coming Home to Mazu
Roger R. Hale
This tells the story of six months in the life of a 29-year-old woman from Taiwan, Gao Mei Lin, who returns home from India after having travelled alone, most importantly pursuing her interest in Buddhism. During the next six months of Gao Mei Lin’s life, leading up and ending with her 30th birthday party in her home town of Hualien, she wrestles with two major themes.
The first theme has to do with Mei Lin’s religious or spiritual transformation from “pure” Buddhism to her gradual embrace of a local deity Mazu. Mei Lin’s gradual shift toward devotion of Mazu hints at a larger nativist movement afoot in Taiwan—a desire of its population to redefine and celebrate what it means to be Taiwanese.
The second theme has to do with Gao Mei Lin’s existential question of her future—about whether to find a marriage partner or whether to remain independent. Three young men are attracted to Mei Lin and suggest to the reader questions not only about Gao Mei Lin’s future, but for the future of Taiwan more generally.
However, that said, this story is a simple one, about a charming young Taiwanese woman and her three suitors. In addition to her anxiety about the future, Gao Mei Lin is a testament to the courteous, creative and enterprising people of the island. Gao Mei Lin’s character is as strikingly interesting and magnificent as is the natural beauty of the island.