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.


About Vasilly

Mother, daughter, sister, college student, bookworm, lover of chocolate and coffee.
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21 Responses to Review: The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

  1. Fabulous. I read this in college but haven’t read it since. I need to look for it, again!

  2. Heather says:

    I read this book years ago, and your review reminded me just how much I loved it. Have you read Saving Fish From Drowning? That’s another good one by Tan.

  3. heidenkind says:

    I read this book in high school, and as someone who is the granddaughter of immigrants, I really connected to it. I saw a lot of similarities between the women’s relationships with their moms and my mom/grandma. I also love the movie even though it’s a total sobfest. 🙂

  4. BermudaOnion says:

    I loved this book too. My mother is first generation American and I thought of many of her stories as I read this book.

  5. bookmagic says:

    You should read her other works also. The Kitchen God’s wife is a favorite

  6. Jenny says:

    I read this in high school (never the most propitious of circumstances under which to be introduced to a book), and in spite of much offputting English class discussion, I still thought it was a very very good book. It’s been years since I read it last!

  7. I read this one for a college course and thought it was great. I have only read one other of Tan’s books but I hope to read more!

  8. Gavin says:

    Like others I loved this book when I read it years ago. It is wonderful revisiting it through your thoughts.

  9. Marg says:

    Reading your review has bought back great memories of reading this book many years ago!

  10. Kailana says:

    I have owned this book for ages and still not read it. Glad to hear you enjoyed it!

  11. Carrie K. says:

    I loved this one, too! And I agree with Deb – The Kitchen God’s Wife is very good, too.

  12. zibilee says:

    I read this one, and a lot of Tan’s other books long ago, and loved them. This was also a particular favorite of mine because of the very deep mother daughter issues that abounded in the story. I am so glad that you enjoyed this one and that you were able to relate to it. It’s interesting as well that you say that it hasn’t aged. That’s a real plus for a book like this one. Great review!

  13. JoAnn says:

    My daughter read this over the summer and gave me her copy… moving it to the top of the pile! I really loved The Kitchen God’s Wife and have enjoyed a couple of other Tan novels.

  14. RandomizeME says:

    I read Joy Luck Club and then Kitchen God’s wife when I was in high school. I agree, those were brilliant books. She really captured the Chinese mother-daughter relationships very realistically.

  15. Athira says:

    I haven’t read this book yet, but I like the sound of it. Mother-daughter relations are never easy. I know I was a pain in my mom’s ass!

  16. stacybuckeye says:

    I read this one last year and was struck by the mother-daughter realtionships. As a new mom, I hope that I can have a good relationship with him as he grows up. I don’t want to ruin him! 🙂

  17. Harvee says:

    Now that my mother has passed away, i should re-read this book to get an even deeper perspective.

  18. So happy to see you call it “brilliant.” This has long been one of my favorite books!

  19. This is one that I’ve been thinking of re-reading: I remember loving it when I was a daughter, and I’m curious to see if I feel any differently about the story years later with different life experiences to bring to the reading of it. I echo those who’ve mentioned enjoying The Kitchen God’s Wife, and you also might enjoy her thoughts on the writing process and identity in The Opposite of Fate. It was one that I borrowed from the library and then had to buy my own copy of.

  20. Pingback: Favorite Reads of 2011: Fiction « 1330v

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