Joy luck club, The – A book review


I reading about China in The Joy luck club last year without knowing that I would be spending a month in Macau (a country that is still a part of Chinese government) soon after I finished it! Has this ever happened to you? So how did it fare on my chart? Let us find out.

About the Joy luck club

Book Name: The Joy luck club

Author: Amy Tan

Genre: Fiction –  HistoricalDrama

Characters: Jing-mei (June) Woo, Suyuan Woo, An-mei Hsu, Rose Hsu Jordan, Lindo Jong, Waverly Jong, Ying-ying St. Clair, and Lena St. Clair

Setting: San Francisco, The United States of America and China

Plot Summary of the Joy luck club

Following her mother’s death (Suyuan Woo), Jing-mei (June) Woo replaces her in the monthly Mah jong game. Suyuan and her friends started this tradition years ago when they moved into San Francisco as way to keep in touch with their Chinese culture and history. Through the years, the four mothers share their festivals, their daughters’ birthdays and achievements during the game.

While the mothers tried to preserve the culture, their daughters chase the American dream and lifestyle. They do not have the patience or interest in knowing their mother’s history and they scoff at the Chinese superstitions. Despite living under the same roof for years, the mothers and daughters live a life separated by their culture and life experiences. 

The harder their mothers are on them, the harder the daughters rebel in their own way, without realizing unwittingly they are following their mothers’ path. They also are quick to leave behind their Chinese culture just like their mothers had. 

During their game, Jing-mei finds out that just before her death Suyuan had traced her two other daughters that she had to leave behind during the World war II. And her mother’s friends urge her to take her mother’s journey to meet her long lost relatives who are still in China. Did she take that journey and find her sisters forms the rest of the story in The Joy luck club.

Book review of the Joy luck club

The Joy luck club is one of those classic cult hit when it was released in 1989. While it does feel a little bit dated, her major themes on mother- daughter relationship and generational gaps, especially between the first and second generational Chinese-Americans still holds good. 

The Joy luck club contains sixteen short stories narrated by four Chinese born mothers and their respective daughters who make it a point not to learn Chinese over half a century! While it was fun to try to read this structure, the truth was it was a little difficult to remember all the secondary characters. 

I loved how the daughters who scoffed at their mothers and their traditions in their childhood and well into their marriages, turn around as they mature and even get closer to them. And how their mothers in turn, learn to adapt into their new roles over the years. To be honest, The Joy luck club made me stop a moment and examine my own relationship with my mother. 

Things that worked for me

  • I loved the friendship/co-dependency between the mothers.
  • The stories about the mothers before coming to the USA were haunting and so historically rich. I loved them.

Things that didn’t work for me

  • Did the author somehow help the strict, cold Asian mothers and absentee Asian fathers stereotypes?  (UPDATE: upon reading other reviews -YES SHE DID, AND FACED A SEVERE BACKLASH)
  • I wish the book’s structure was a bit easier to follow through.

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Bottom-line

The Joy Luck Club is culturally and historically rich, even though it plays a bit to the stereotypes or even went to setting those stereotypes in the first place. If you are looking for a literary / historical fiction The Joy luck club by Amy Tan is a good choice. 

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Let us chat

Have you read The Joy Luck Club by AMy Tan? Have you visited any place that you read about? Can you suggest any book that speaks of mother-daughter relationships? Let us talk.


22 responses to “Joy luck club, The – A book review”

  1. I’ve heard of the book, but never read it. Interesting that its told in a set of stories instead of one narrative structure.

  2. I’ve been wanting to read Joy Luck Club for ages!
    I can’t believe that it reinforces negative stereotypes about Asian mums though 🙁 Still, I’m excited to give it a go!

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