Reviewed by Ambrea
Suyuan Woo, An-mei Hsu, Lindo Jong, and Ying-ying St. Clair are members of the Joy Luck Club, a group of women who meet weekly to play traditional Chinese games and share stories from their daily lives. But when Suyuan passes away unexpectedly, her daughter, Jing-Mei (June) Woo takes her seat at the Joy Luck Club to simultaneously remember her mother and honor her memory.
As she exchanges stories with her mother’s friends, June learns a stunning secret: the twin daughters Suyuan was forced to leave behind in China are alive—and they wish to meet her. Thus begins June’s journey to uncover her mother’s past, marked by the ravages of World War II, and meet the sisters she never knew. Together with Rose Hsu, Waverly Jong, and Lena St. Clair, she will learn to reconnect with her mother and reclaim one more piece of family history.
Simultaneously heartwarming and heart-wrenching, The Joy Luck Club is a fascinating collection of individual stories that recounts the lives of mothers and daughters—one being a Chinese immigrant, the other an American-born child—as they struggle to bridge a gap in language and culture to communicate and, more importantly, find common ground. It’s a lovely novel that confronts the realities of love and loss, culminating in a journey of healing and understanding that’s sure to enchant readers.
One of the most appealing qualities, I found, is that it’s readily accessible for readers. Although The Joy Luck Club prominently features Chinese culture in America (and individuals learning how to embrace and/or acclimate to one or the other), Tan’s work focuses heavily on mother-daughter relationships. Specifically, it focuses on the challenges of mother-daughter relationships, which, regardless of culture, has a universal impact. It’s about human emotion and experience, perspectives of mothers and daughters as they learn to listen to one another and, finally, connect.
Tan creates wonderful, poignant stories with beautiful imagery and emotional, thought-provoking narratives that shed light on both Chinese and American cultures and, sometimes, the vast differences between them. I was especially moved by the stories of Suyuan, An-mei, Lindo, and Ying-ying, mothers who have a past steeped in tradition and tragedy, love and hope. They lived through World War II and faced the turmoil of that era. They experienced damaging social upheaval, tragic personal loss, political strife and human depravity, and their stories reflect the terror their faced and the tribulations they endured in immigrating to America; however, it also presents a picture of strong women who have fought for their daughters. Women who have managed to find hope, love and stability, and who have managed to pass these qualities on to their daughters.
The Joy Luck Club is an amazing novel, and I can’t wait to read more by Amy Tan.