Adeline is the youngest of five children when her mother dies in childbirth. Shortly after, her father re-marries a French-Chinese whom the children call Niang. Niang is vicious. She takes control of the household, shows favourites to the children she likes, pits the children against each other, threatens them, doesn't let them bring friends home, and is everything you could imagine an evil stepmother to be. Things get worse when Niang has her own children so that she can favour them even more.
All Adeline wants is to be loved by her father. She puts her focus into schooling and gets all A's. While this seems to please her father, he still doesn't give her much attention. Niang makes this as difficult for Adeline as possible, but at the end this is a Cinderella story.
You can't help but despise how Niang treats her children and step-children. There's no reason to treat anyone like this, with all the outright hatred and emotional mind games. I was so happy for Adeline that she got away and created her own life for herself, though she kept getting sucked back into her family drama.
This book was so captivating that I couldn't put it down. I wanted to make sure that Adeline ended up alright. I also really enjoyed the Chinese sayings that were scattered throughout the novel, including the one used for the title: Falling leaves always return to their roots.
First Line: "At the age of three my grand aunt proclaimed her independence by categorically refusing to have her feet bound, resolutely tearing off the bandages as fast as they were applied."