May 24, 2012

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

I'm always interested in books about China. While this book is more about women and their lives than China itself, it still is very interesting and definitely an emotional read.

Four daughters and four mothers, all very much different and challenged to understand each other. This book weaves through their different lives and expresses the difficulties they face, not only in understanding each other, but understanding themselves as well as they struggle to be their own people, despite the expectations of others. In a sense it also includes the grandmothers, because as the mothers tell their stories, of growing up in China and leaving, their mothers play a big role in shaping their lives and decisions. It also shows their decisions with where to take their lives and the reactions when something happens that wasn't planned for. A noticeable story is where the Joy Luck Club name came from and how the actual club was originated, told by the mother of Jing-Mei Woo.

I have to say I enjoyed the mothers' stories more than the daughters'. They just seemed to have more depth to them. Their struggles seemed more poignant while the daughters' lives dealt more with divorce and jobs. Not that those aren't hardships, but they're familiar hardships that aren't quite as interesting. I think my lease favorite character was Waverly, I thought she was a bit conceited and I just couldn't identify with her character at all. In contrast, Suyuan Woo and her struggles with the war in China were much more interesting and made me appreciate her character more. The others had their ups and downs as well, but those were the two standouts.

I liked the concept of pitting mother against daughter and showing why they acted teh way they did. I can't speak on how relevant it is to the culture, but it did seem authentic and I really thought at times that I was reading about real people, even if I wasn't. I can definitely see these people being based off of real life stories. The writing was nice and full of description, but I did find it confusing keeping track of who's who at times. There's a small listing in the front of the book but I grew irritated of flipping back and forth to figure out who I was reading about. Perhaps it was just a bad week for me memory wise, but I think I would have rather had the stories fit together more cohesively so it was easier to follow.

A very interesting book and I would definitely say it's earned its reputation as a book club read. It's one that I could definitely say I would read again.

The Joy Luck Club
Copyright 1989
288 pages

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