“Grandfather’s Story” by Catherine Lim Summary

Grandfather's Story Catherine Lim Summary
“Grandfather’s Story” Summary

“Grandfather’s Story” is a short story by Catherine Lim that can be found in The Catherine Lim Collection (Amazon) and They Do Return . . . But Gently Lead Them Back. It’s about the narrator’s remembrances of her grandmother and grandfather, particularly their contentious relationship, grandmother’s harsh personality, and grandfather’s interpretation of their life together. Here’s a summary of “Grandfather’s Story”.

“Grandfather’s Story” Summary

Grandmother died when the narrator was 10. She bought many bondmaids to work in her sewing business. The narrator was in awe of her because of the stories of mistreatment she heard. It’s rumored one of them died at 15 when grandmother threw a durian (a large, hard, spikey fruit) at her. The narrator imagined terrible ways it could have happened.

Grandfather, who was separated from his wife as long as anyone could remember, claimed that cruelty could be perceived in all her physical features.

The narrator probably attributed to her grandmother all the atrocities she heard were committed by the elderly ladies of old China against the females under them. She never personally witnessed any monstrous behavior; she did see her hit the bondmaids in various ways.

Grandmother didn’t like children, including her own relatives. She and grandfather seemed to hate each other completely. The narrator doesn’t understand how they had three children together.

It was an arranged marriage and grandmother brought a large dowry with her. When her parents died, she left her husband, taking the three kids with her, and started her own business. She focused on getting rich.

Grandfather lived with a mistress, grand aunt, whom he loved although she was barren and couldn’t give him sons.

Grandmother died from cancer after it ate away at her for over a year. She didn’t want grandfather at her funeral and he didn’t go, although grand aunt urged him to.

A year after grandmother died, grand aunt died when she slipped and fell down the stairs. Grandfather was devastated and inconsolable for months. His personality changed from talkative and upbeat to withdrawn. He used to tell stories but he stopped. One day he surprised everyone at home when he came out of his room and told the following story.

A thousand years ago in China there was a farmer and his wife. She was gentle and considerate and her husband loved her. She was barren, so the husband worked hard so they could save for their old age. They hid their savings in a stone jar buried in their earthen floor.

The head nun at a nearby nunnery was cruel and greedy. She knew the couple were saving money. When the husband is out in the field, the nun visits his wife and promises heavenly blessings for those who generously donate. Taken in by it, the wife hands over their savings and believes her husband will be pleased.

When she tells him, he kills her in a rage with his hoe. He runs to the nunnery and kills the head nun with it as well. The farmer then hangs himself in a tree.

The three spirits appear before the Almighty for judgement. The farmer did wrong and will be punished. The nun did a greater wrong and will be punished worse. The wife is good and won’t be punished.

They will be reborn on Earth. The farmer and nun will marry each other and be each other’s torment. Because the farmer’s sin was lesser, he will be reunited with his former wife after some time and they will be happy. The nun will then get a painful disease and die after much suffering. It all happened just as the Almighty said.

As grandfather returns to his room he says the woman would die shortly after and the man shortly after that. They won’t have the pain of another rebirth.

I hope this summary of “Grandfather’s Story” by Catherine Lim was helpful.