Title: The Joy Luck Club
Author: Amy Tan
Genre: Fiction: women’s fiction; cultural fiction
Four mothers, four daughters, four families whose histories shift with the four winds depending on who’s “saying” the stories. In 1949 four Chinese women, recent immigrants to San Francisco, begin meeting to eat dim sum, play mahjong, and talk. United in shared unspeakable loss and hope, they call themselves the Joy Luck Club. Rather than sink into tragedy, they choose to gather to raise their spirits and money. “To despair was to wish back for something already lost. Or to prolong what was already unbearable.” Forty years later the stories and history continue. With wit and sensitivity, Amy Tan examines the sometimes painful, often tender, and always deep connection between mothers and daughters. As each woman reveals her secrets, trying to unravel the truth about her life, the strings become more tangled, more entwined. Mothers boast or despair over daughters, and daughters roll their eyes even as they feel the inextricable tightening of their matriarchal ties. Tan is an astute storyteller, enticing readers to immerse themselves into these lives of complexity and mystery. (from Goodreads)
Thoughts: Sometimes, when a book is very well known, or when I’ve been meaning to read it for a while, I form an idea in my head of what the book is about and how I will feel about it. Sometimes I am right and sometimes I am wrong. I had heard about this book for years, and somewhere along the way I got it into my head that this was a traditional contemporary fiction, more on the ya side, dealing with four Chinese mothers and their Chinese-American daughters.
Of course, I was wrong. I was totally unprepared for the structure of the book. There are four sections, two of which are told from the mothers’ point of view about their childhood in China and life in America and their relationships with their daughters, and two sections dealing with the daughters, their childhood and their present day lives. Each chapter of the book is really more of a vignette or short story that will sometimes briefly mention some of the other characters in the book. The overall tone is a sort of beautiful bittersweet with wonderfully evocative descriptions. From a disasters early arranged marriage, a divorce, engagement, the death of a mother, a child chess champion, and a terrible kitchen accident, each story is told in brief yet incredibly descriptive detail. I seriously can’t express enough how gorgeous Tan’s writing is. It’s just… gah! It’s just really really great.
Overall, it was the tone of the book, the words and phrases that she chose that stuck with me and made an impact. I could go on and on but I’ll just say: trust me on this one. If you haven’t read Amy Tan yet and you’ve been thinking about it: do it! It was one of the most enjoyable reading experiences I’ve had all year! I already bought anther of her books: Saving Fish From Drowning. The premise has me really intrigued: Bibi Chen had planned a vacation for friends along the Burma Road. Unfortunately, she dies before the event and the book follows her as she watches from above the trip take place and unfold in a manner utterly unlike what she had planned. It sounds great!
I’ve been thinking whether or not The Joy Luck Club would be considered a modern-day classic. I think it could be but I’m not sure. Thoughts?