Wednesday, April 24, 2013

2013 Book Review #5: The Joy Luck Club

Before I start, just a note...I finished this book about a month ago, but before I wrote the review, my niece passed away and I had too many other things on my mind. I'm finally getting around to it now.

So, in my ongoing quest to read and review twenty-five books this year, I picked up a large stack of books at a local used book store that was closing down. Everything was 25 cents, so when I saw The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan, I grabbed it before anyone else could.

I have vague memories of when the movie came out, some time in the 90s. I think I even tried watching the movie when it came to video, but it was lost on me then. Now, however, it's a different story.

The Joy Luck Club tells the stories of four Chinese mothers who immigrated to the United States, and their four daughters, born and raised American, with only passing knowledge of the traditional ways their mothers knew. Each mother went through considerable hardship which drove her from China; all they wish for their daughters is opportunity and a happier life. The daughters, in turn, tell their own stories of growing up with their traditional Chinese mothers, and all the ways in which they didn't understand how their mothers viewed the world.

The book is presented in sixteen vignettes, grouped into sections of four that represent the four directions on a mah jong table. The stories of the daughters sometimes overlap, as the four girls grew up interacting with each other in San Francisco, while the mothers' stories remain separate.

If I had tried reading The Joy Luck Club fifteen years ago, I might not have enjoyed it, but with my more recent fascination with Chinese culture, I found it incredibly engaging and interesting. However, it's not only a story about Chinese people--it's a story about mothers and daughters, and it is this theme that makes the story truly shine. Any woman can relate to the trials and triumphs these mothers and daughters experience together, with their generational and even cultural differences. In the end, what matters most in a mother-daughter relationship is the unconditional love a mother gives her child, no matter how it is presented.

Amy Tan put together a gorgeous book that reads very quickly and keeps the reader engaged in the stories she is telling. I am glad I took a chance on The Joy Luck Club; and in future, I may read some of her other offerings.

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