Book Review: The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan (3/5)

14 Aug

I ran across this book at a used book sale a few years ago and realized it was a shame I’d never read Amy Tan before. It seemed about the right time to fix that problem. I didn’t get to it for another three years. I started this book on audio but I had to return it to the library before I left on vacation. At the urging o some readers, I decided to take a physical book on my trip to read before bed and avoid looking at my screen before sleep. Being the packing minimalist I am, I took my physical copy and cut it in half, taking only the half I hadn’t read. Hate me if you must! I’m keeping the second half of the book. It’s a fun memory.

Cover image via Goodreads

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

Summary from Goodreads:

In 1949, four Chinese women, recent immigrants to San Francisco, begin meeting to eat dim sum, play mahjong, and talk. United in shared loss and hope, they call themselves the Joy Luck Club. With wit and wisdom, Amy Tan examines the sometimes painful, often tender, and always deep connection between these four women and their American-born daughters. As each reveals her secrets, trying to unravel the truth about her life, the strings become more tangled, more entwined…

I think I did myself a disservice reading this at the same time as a book by Lisa See that also focused on the hardships of living in China. I would sometimes mix up the plots and think I had been reading something in one book that was in the other. The vignette style of this book was really fun. I enjoyed getting to know the women and their daughters, how their lives interacted and affected one another. I would sometimes get confused about who was related to who and without the first half of the book, it was a bit hard to reference sometimes. I liked how the book resolved in the end. I have the DVD ready to watch as soon as I finish this review and I’m excited to dive into it.

I loved how Tan gave us so many representations of the Chinese immigrant and first-generation experience. Her characters were all very unique individuals and their daughters were even more unique. I thought she built a strong community of women who had their own heartbreaks that they’d suffered and were going through the immigrant experience together as best they could. It seemed a logical group to share such stories with and I loved the candid sharing they did.

Waverly stuck in my head best. Her story of being a young chess champion and how she selfishly threw it away came back in other stories that shared how selfish she was later in life and how the rest of the community felt about her. She stuck out to me because her mentality was so different from the rest of the women. I’m not sure she was my favorite character, but she was the most memorable.

I didn’t personally relate to many of the women but their stories reminded me of friends from school who were first-generation children. A good friend of mine from high school was first-generation from Taiwan and the stories of many of the daughters reminded me of her stories. The distance she would sometimes feel from her parents who didn’t ‘understand’ American culture in the same way she did and who disliked a lot of the music and entertainment we enjoyed were similar to the impressions I got from the daughters in this book. It’s obvious that Tan herself is a first-generation immigrant child.

Amy Tan
Image via Harper Collins

I liked the beginning and ending stories that surrounded the book. Using the idea of a daughter returning to China and teaching her about China and how life in America is different was a great way to frame the novel and introduce the characters. I was excited when I got to the end and could hear the rest of Jing-Mei’s story. It gave a solid ending to a series of short stories which can be very hard to do.

I can’t name particulars, but there were some stories that didn’t interest me as much as others. That’s to be expected in a series of short stories so I’m not surprised. I can’t think of any that I really disliked or wouldn’t read again. Most of them were just a bit slower than others, nothing really negative. I gave this book the rating I did mostly because of the short story format. It’s not a favorite of mine.

The audiobook that I listened to for the first half of the book was narrated by Gwendoline Yeo. I loved hearing Yeo’s narration because she gave great voices to the daughters and mothers. Her inflection was right in line with Tan’s writing (which I found out when picking up the print). I think she was a good choice. The sound quality of the item I picked up wasn’t the best but that’s nothing against Yeo.

Mothers and daughters have very complicated relationships. Children tend to not think of their mothers before they became mothers. Many of the mothers in this book compared their daughters to their young selves. When the daughter doesn’t know what she’s being compared to, reactions can be hard to read. I can see this a bit in my relationship with my mother though we don’t have the cultural differences these women did. Just generational differences.

Writer’s Takeaway: I’m not a huge fan of the vignette style but I think Tan made it work. It’s not something I’m brave enough to try, though. Developing so many small plots and having them work into an overarching story is incredibly difficult. Tan crafted it beautifully and it’s hard to believe this is her first novel.

A great story just not told the way I wanted to read it. Three out of Five Stars.

Until next time, write on.

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The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan | Reading Post-Colonial Literature



7 Responses to “Book Review: The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan (3/5)”

  1. Rae Longest August 14, 2018 at 11:53 AM #

    I will read anything by Amy Tan; she is one of my favorites. She is a totally cool person. Do you know that she and Stephen King (and other authors) were/are in a metal rock band? I don’t think I’ve ever read anything of hers I didn’t like, and I’ve read most of her books.


    • Sam August 14, 2018 at 12:08 PM #

      I did know about the band! Mitch Albom is in it, too. So cool. This is my first of hers but I already have another on my shelf. Happy reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hunida August 15, 2018 at 3:42 AM #

    I’m not that big a fan of short stories either but… wait, you cut the book in half… like actually?! How did you even? Lol!


    • Sam August 15, 2018 at 12:05 PM #

      I used a box cutter haha. It was an old paperback so the spine was already cracked so it wasn’t too hard haha. Happy reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The Age Of Escapades - by Daisy August 15, 2018 at 5:28 AM #

    Ahha I kinda love that you cut the book in half! It sounds like an interesting book, I did a module that had lots of books about non-American born characters and it was really eye opening to see the differences and difficulties.


    • Sam August 15, 2018 at 12:22 PM #

      I love reading about people vastly different from me. I just finished two set partly in China and now I have two set in India! Happy reading!

      Liked by 1 person


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