Review: The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

The Joy Luck Club

Amy Tan

288 pages

Publication Year: 1989

Publisher: Vintage

Source: Public Library

And I think now that fate is shaped half by expectations, half by inattention. But somehow, when you lose something you love, faith takes over. You have to pay attention to what you lost. You have to undo the expectation.

The Joy Luck Club is the story of four mothers, Chinese-born women who migrated to the United States, and their American-born daughters. The book focuses on the women’s childhoods, loves, heartbreaks, and their relationships with each other.

The novel begins after the recent death of Suyuan Woo. Her daughter, June, is asked to replace her in the Joy Luck Club, a group of long-time friends who often meet up to play Mah-Jong, among other things. As honored as she is, June doesn’t know if she can take her mother’s place. June and Suyuan’s relationship was filled with love but also misunderstandings and doubts. June is a woman who’s given up on her talents and potential at a young age while her mother always saw the potential especially when her daughter didn’t.

I had always assumed we had an unspoken understanding about these things; that she didn’t really mean I was a failure, and I really meant I would try to respect her opinions more. But listening to Auntie Lin tonight reminds me once again: My mother and I never really understood one another. We translated each other’s meanings and I seemed to hear less than what she said, while my mother heard more.

June and Suyuan’s problems aren’t unique, though they feel that way. Every mother-and-daughter pair in the group has the same problems.  They were women who came from two very different cultures and had a bridge to cross in order to understand and appreciate each other. With every pair it was as if the mother understood her daughter, but the daughter felt as if her mother was a puzzle.

I can remember countless times as a teenager when I felt like my mother and I were speaking two different languages. Now as a mother, I wonder how much of what I say to my daughter will be remembered and in what way.  I think that’s part of timelessness of this book. Mother-daughter issues are going to be around as long as human beings are here. It’s something most women can relate to. Though The Joy Luck Club was first published in 1988, it’s not dated. It reaches across age and culture to give readers a satisfying story.

As sad as I was to let these characters go, I’m glad that I’ve finally read this brilliant book. My rating: 5 out of 5.