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The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan



Book Reviews (Adult)

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
Published by Vintage, 1991

This is Amy Tan’s first novel. It concerns the story of four Chinese immigrant mothers and their first-generation Chinese-American daughters, and their struggle with cultural identity and complex mother/daughter relationships.

The novel takes its name from the club founded by one of the mothers Suyuan Woo. She founded this club while still in China in order to lift her friends’ spirits during wartime. The plan was to meet on a regular basis to play mah-jong, eat good food, and to gamble. She revives this club when she moves to California, this time to promote Chinese culture. She is joined by three other women in her own age-group: An-Mei Hsu, Lindo Jong and Ying-ying St. Clair. The four women each have a daughter of about the same age and who grow up in the vicinity together.

The novel revolves around Jing-Mei’s (June) trip to China to meet her two half-sisters, who remained behind in China because Jing-Mei’s mother, Suyuan Woo, was forced to abandon them on the roadside during the war. Suyuan had intended to return to China for her daughters, but had failed to locate them before her death. Jing-Mei has since taken her mother’s place in the club, and the three other women organise on Suyuan’s behalf Jing-Mei’s trip to China to meet her half-sisters.

The novel discusses the individual mother/daughter relationships and the complexity of emotions involved: joy, sadness, anger, frustration. The mothers remember their childhood and think about the past, the daughters remember growing up in America with Chinese mothers. At times, the daughters feel they are not Chinese at all, and do not know how to deal with Chinese culture in their homes. However, when Jing-Mei finally goes to China to meet her two half-sisters, she feels part Chinese after all. In this way the two different cultures are united.

The members of the bookclub found this novel to be a very interesting read. They would recommend it as a very powerful and compelling book in understanding Chinese culture.

Reviewed by Newmarket-on-Fergus Library bookclub.

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