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.
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.
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.
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.
You know what makes a winter night cozier? Hot chocolate? Yeah, that too but more so a romance. It has been years since I read a Nora Robert but I remember seeing Come Sundown on the Amazon top seller list I decided to give it a go.
I have read Nora’s books earlier and I knew what I was in for with Come Sundown. I knew I was going to have a solid plot, well-drawn characters, and that happy ending. Did she give me what expected? You will have to read the review to know more.
The story begins with Alice Bodine’s abduction in 1991 and moves ahead to introducing us to the present day Bodine resort run by Bodine Longbow. The upscale Bodine resort along with the Bodine ranch, run by her brothers Chase and Rory, offers the ranch experience to its guests.
Bodine has no time to think about her love life and her whole life revolves around her family and running her resort. All that changes when Callen Skinner, her childhood crush, and her brother’s best friend comes back to the town and starts working at the ranch. The couple has always liked each other, but they decide they want to keep it casual. How far would they go before they realize they are destined for each other?
What could have been just a mere romance (gasp, did I say mere?), turns into a thriller when bodies of two women associated with the Bodine family turn up. As if that was not enough to rise a havoc, Aunt Alice returns to her family but severely abused and traumatized. Is there any connection between the murders and Alice’s return? Or is it Cal’s return that we have to worry about? You will have to read Come Sundown to know more.
Heavily marketed as a romantic suspense, Come Sundown could have easily been a thriller. The romance part didn’t work well for me (more on that later) but the mystery and thriller part held the book tight. It might come as no surprise that thriller is not a new genre for Nora, as she has been writing thriller under her alter ego J.D. Robb for a long while now.
Nora’s books have always had a great emphasis on the familial bonding and subplots make them worthwhile. Come Sundown is no different. Rory and Chase’s romantic lives play a great distraction from the leads’ story. Which brings me on to Bo – Cal love which was tepid at the best. Apart from the physical attraction they have been harboring since their teenagers, I never found anything clicking between them. No passionate love that is usually promised by the genre. It is supposed to be a romance, dammit.
The most interesting character in the book was Alice Bodine. Hers was the only one that had a development. I have always loved reading about psychos; and social outcasts. Well, her suffering through rape and physical abuse caught me right into the story.
Nora’s writing is exceptionally good and I have come to expect nothing less from her. All you Nora Roberts’ fan you will love Come Sundown. If you are new to Nora’s writing, it will take a bit of your time to get into the setting and just sit through the introduction to every character in the story. If you can get through it, you will not regret this 400+ page romantic suspense, or as I call it a thriller.;
Thanks to the holidays and festivities we have all started realizing (read as dreading) the kinda havoc that the dysfunctional families would be unleashing this year.
8 bookish dysfunctional families from my favorite books
To get you through the myriad of unwanted questions (Any wedding bells yet? Baby in the making?) and the offensive comments (No, you can not say that word anymore) arm yourself with one of these books with the worst of dysfunctional families. At least they will make you feel better about yours.
What happens when you find your ‘favourite’ child’s body in the bottom of a lake? Meet the Lee’s, a quintessential Chinese American family from the 1970s. Jason Lee is a US-bred guy of Chinese descent who would give anything to fit in. He puts in his focus and efforts on making his daughter Lydia popular and has friends, like a normal American teenager.
Marlyn Lee, his wife, an American woman who wants her daughter to achieve things that she couldn’t. Their oldest Nathan and youngest Hannah suffer their invisibility in silence. The siblings are set to determine the cause of the death of Lydia. How this broken family grieves her death in isolation and guilt under one roof forms the rest of Everything I Never Told You.
7) A Child Called “It” by Dave Pelzer
This real-life memoir of the author, talks about his childhood spent being abused by his mother. Dave as a child was beaten, starved and tortured by his emotionally unstable mother, who considered him a slave, even calling him ‘It’.
He pretended everything was fine at school coming up with excuses for his bruises and stealing food from his classmates. Having two brothers who got off easy and an alcoholic father who neglected the whole situation puts the Pelzer family on my dysfunctional family list. A Child Called “It” is no book for the weak hearted.
6) The God of small things by Arundhati Roy
Roy’s portrayal of the Ayemenem, Kerala in the 1970s left a nostalgic tinge when I first read years ago. But what stuck with me far deeper was their family. The main protagonists of the plot are Rahel and Estha fraternal twins who are parted by circumstances for years.
As kids, they had to live with their Uncle Chacko at their late grandfather’s family estate when her mother Ammu divorced their father. Ammu is a free spirit and was not someone who would follow the rules, even for her kids. While their childhood was far from peaceful, the twins had at least each other. But an incident changes everything in their lives and now Estha doesn’t speak anymore. The God of small things will work both as a compelling tale as well as a masterful social commentary. Read my review here.
5) The Grownup by Gillian Flynn
In about 50 pages Gillian Flynn makes the Burke family spooky enough to be listed on my most dysfunctional families list. Susan Burke requests our narrator to visit her house to heal their haunted house. Looking for some quick bucks she agrees, only to realize she has gotten involved in things far more than she bargained for.
She realizes Susan’s teenager son Miles is creepy and wile and her house has a darker and sinister past. And even Susan is not as dumb as the narrator assumed her out to be. Read The Grownup to know more about the unreliable Burkes and I promise you won’t be disappointed. Read my review here.
4) We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
A blinded father, a mother who did not want to be one, a sister who feared everything and a 15 years old psychopath who killed nine people in a high school massacre – how is that for a dysfunctional family?
We Need to Talk About Kevin is written in the form of letters from Eva, a writer to her estranged husband Franklin, narrating the incidents of their lives until the day before the fated Thursday. Their son Kevin killed seven students, a cafeteria worker and a teacher who tried to befriend him two days before his sixteenth birthday. This international bestseller set in the 2000s definitely should be on your to be read list.
3) Mummy’s Little Angel by JW Lawson
Speaking of bad mothers, Joanna could not love her twins Annie and Maggie any more than she already does, and as any good children do, they both compete to become their Mummy’s Little Angel. The Stokes family have faced a lot worse in the past – Joanna is mobility impaired, her husband is shot and is labelled a paedophile, one of her twins is disfigured and suffers from amnesia due to a fire accident and the other twin is blamed for it all and is imprisoned.
The timing could not be any worse for her schizophrenic mother, who had abandoned her twenty years ago, to come back to their lives. What more could her daughters be hiding from her? Find out with Joanna by reading Mummy’s Little Angel. Read my review here.
2) Dark places by Gillian Flynn
7 years old Libby Day testified against 15 years old Ben, her brother in the case of the bloody massacre of her family. Their mother, Patty was shot in her head, both Patty and Debby had been slaughtered with an axe, and Michelle was strangled to death.
Libby herself has been affected mentally by the event and is on medicine to help her cope. Now after twenty-five years, she visits her ghosts and tries to remember the day of the horrific event and her equally dysfunctional family or whatever is remaining. Gillian Flynn is one of my favourite authors and this definitely is one of the most disturbing books I have read, by far. Read my review here.
1) The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides
As far as dysfunctional families go, the Lisbon’s can easily be the toppers. With all of their five daughters committing suicides could there be a worse dysfunctional family? The strict and devout Christian mother who never let the girls out of their sight did not let them date or even attend dances except for one.
Their submissive father who could not live any duller life in their all woman house did not help their case either. Once the youngest one Cecilia succeeded her attempt in committing the rest of the family came tumbling like a house of dominoes, while the entire neighbourhood watched. The Virgin Suicides is one of my favourite books to read not just for the plot but also its beautiful prose. Read my review here.
What are your favourite families with dysfunctional families? Let me know which fictional family would make me feel a lot better about mine. And more importantly, share your secret excuses to get away from the family dinners quickly *wink wink*.
How well do you know anyone? You might meet people every day, but still, do you know the real them? Stillhouse Lake by Rachel Caine takes us for a wild ride making us question the very thing,
And it is not a surprise to know that it has been on the Amazon Top Charts for more than eight weeks now. Read on to know more about the top selling serial killer novel Stillhouse Lake by Rachel Caine right ahead.
Gina Royal is a happy stay at home mother for her kids and is happily married to Melvin. Her life falls apart when a drunk driver wrecks their garage, exposing the remains of the heinous murders her husband had committed. She is tried as an accomplice and acquitted later, while Mel is sentenced to death row.
Fearing the Internet threats and the trolls, that she dubs as Sicko Patrol, Gina renames herself Gwen Proctor, a fearless mom who will do anything to protect her teens . Gwen could have been her last identity change until the serial killing starts again just around her neighborhood. She continues to fear her husband’s threats and doesn’t know whom to trust.
What length would she go to save her kids and her own sanity? Read Stillhouse lake by Rachel Caine to find out.
Book review of Stillhouse lake
Stillhouse Lake is a fast paced thriller that is not your breezy summer read. The well placed twists would keep you hooked until the last page. The reader is as confused as Gwen about the people she could trust and things she should stay away from.
Stillhouse lake talks a lot about the dark side of the Internet. It is terrifying that all the threats and abuses she and her kids have been facing are possible in today’s world.
There are a few plot holes that I am trying hard not to nitpick, but the whole premise works only on those flimsy grounds. For instance, Gina was married for ten years and she has never been into her husband’s garage, where he hid, raped, abused, and killed several women.
Gina trusts someone who had been against her from the beginning. And this baffles me: is it even possible in this real life that there are thousands of people who want to kill a family when they were not even related to the murders, especially in this self-absorbed world where we talk about any social issue only until the next one crops up?
The book ends with a cliffhanger which may or not work for you. Though much has been said about Stillhouse Lake ending with a cliffhanger in the book world, the book works well as the first installment in a series to come and as a standalone too. I didn’t mind that some questions have not been answered.
While the plot and premise are refreshingly new, the writing leaves a bad aftertaste in your mouth. If keeping the story moving was all that the author aimed at, well she succeeded. There are girls tortured and killed, kids kidnapped and one character is sent to death row and yet I am thinking about the bad writing. Yes that was the level of emotional connection I had to the characters.
Despite all these misgivings I was not able to put Stillhouse lake by Rachel Caine down until the last page. So if you are looking a fast paced thriller like The Girl on the Train this is your poison, pick it right away.
Last week I helped someone to pick a King book, and this book piqued my curiosity. Two sleepless nights and 500 pages later, here I am with a review of the Rose Madder. Am I a King convert? Read on to know more.
The story is about a woman, Rosie who escapes her abusive husband after a torturous period of fourteen years of married life. She makes an abrupt decision to leave, and she leaves with his credit card. The Husband, Norman Daniels, is a cop who takes pleasure in hitting, kicking, punching and oh, biting his victim.
She leaves him for good and is saved by a home called “Daughters and Sisters.” She tries to start her life anew and it takes a spin when an oil painting catches her fancy at a pawnshop, which she buys trading her engagement ring.
She also is smitten by the guy at the pawnshop, Bill Steiner. Norman eventually finds her and is resolved to kill her. On a perfectly normal plot, King takes in a supernatural twist. You should read the Rose Madder to find out more. Let me know if you have any nightmares.
The plot about a weak woman who escapes her maniac husband and starting her new life, was pretty solid and realistic. But the 20% of the book where the painting and the supernatural stuff got involved, did not actually work for me. What I actually got me continue the book was the characterization. Even the smallest character was etched to almost perfection.
Norman and Rosie were clearly in contrast – Norman being macho and sadistic at last turning into a scared and pathetic person, and Rosie the timid wife to strong and persevering woman who could handle her stuff when she had to. Gert, Anna and even Pam were well detailed. And of course Bill, the most weakly portrayed of the story – probably just to differentiate him from THE Norman.
I had not read the blurb (or whatever the description on the back cover is called) so reading the prologue was quite a shocker, as I already mentioned. Most of the abuses were narrated much later by Rosie, saving the reader from nightmares.
The scary part of the book was not the supernatural things that happen but the human monster himself. I could have liked Norman for all the villain he was – strong, no nonsense, macho, his malevolence and all that but turning him into panic stricken and delusive mode at the end spoiled him a bit for me – though it was absolutely scary and realistic.
The story could have ended well before the last 50 pages where I had to push myself to complete. In fact I would have liked the book better without the supernatural phenomenon – probably it is just a “not you, it’s me” thing.
What worked for me
I love the way King etched each character to perfection and almost every character is memorable.
The book could have been shorter by 50 pages and it still would have had the same impact to the climax.
This is a personal ME thing: the paranormal part didn’t scare/torture me as the human factor did.
I loved it. Rose Madder is the go to book I would and have been recommending if you are looking for a place to start Stephen King books. It is not too big like some of his other works, so the size wont be as intimidating. But it might still haunt you at night.