- reviewed by Ruth Zothanpuii
Written by Amy Tan in 1989 and later adapted into a movie, The Joy Luck Club is a wonderfully crafted novel filled with powerful characters from four different Chinese American immigrant families living in San Francisco, California.
‘The Joy Luck Club’ is a name that comes from the club formed in China by a woman, Suyuan Woo, to lift her friends’ spirits and distract them from the problems during the Japanese invasion. When Suyuan migrated to the US, she continued the club, hoping to bring luck to her family and friends and thereby finding joy in that hope. The club would play a game of Majhong and share stories about their lives and problems while enjoying a variety of foods.
The book is divided into four sections to create sixteen chapters.Each part of the book is preceded by a parable relating to the game of Mahjong. Each revolves around three mothers and four daughters. One mother, Suyuan Woo, the founder of the Club, dies before the novel opens and her story is told by her daughter.
A unique book, The Joy Luck Club talks about the relationship between the mothers and daughters; it contrasts the lives of four Chinese women in pre – 1949 China with the lives of their American-born daughters in California. It is heart wrenching to see the daughters trying to come to terms with the tragic stories of their Chinese mothers. Their gradual understanding of the differences in the cultures and of the events that shaped the lives and characters of their mothers has a magnetic pull, something that is almost mystical. I found their story – fascinating, almost magical.
The book is not just emotional but also full of depth. Without being pedantic, it reveals the clash of two cultures and societies and the story of those caught in between. It talks of the gravity that finally pulls the two together – the gift of a culture by the mothers to their daughters. Amy Tan has a unique way of bringing together the themes of women, history and human spirit, to provide an insight into another culture and another time. The characters are strong and very real.
I strongly recommend this book for everyone who looks for that little bit extra in a book. This is not just another work of fiction; it is a story filled with information, values, insights and emotions – one that appeals to both your head and your heart.
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