Book Review - The Joy Luck Club

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Book #4 - The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

[image source: Goodreads]

Summary (source)
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.

My Review
What I Loved
1. The emphasis on each of the mother-daughter realtionships was very interesting. I really enjoyed learning the stories from their different perspectives and then piecing it together as the book went on. I've said in the past how much I love books that are written from the perspectives of the different characters and this was no exception.

2. It was so beautifully and emotionally written and so easy to read. I was actually assigned this book as a summer read back in high school and, being a 15-year-old almost-ready-to-get-her-license sophomore, the last thing on my mind during that summer was a book about Chinese women. I didn't give it a chance. I'm so glad that I picked this one off my book shelf this month because I really enjoyed it. It's a modern classic and I would highly recommend it if you are looking for something you can really learn from.

3. The culture. This book was not only an entertaining story about the four mothers and their four daughters, but it was a cultural lesson for me as well. I've always thought that Chinese traditions were sort of magical and mesmerizing. I was drawn in, especially to the stories of the mothers growing up in China. To them, each part of life has such great meaning and it was great to gain a better understanding of what they deem important.

4. I found the broken english the mothers spoke throughout the story to be absolutely hilarious and so adorable. Words like "social security" and "architect" were written as "so-so security" and "arcky-tecky." I work with many wonderful folks from many different countries and it just reminds me of them and how funny the language barrier can be sometimes. Yes, this is probably really strange, but I really enjoyed it!

What I Didn't Love
1. I wanted Amy Tan to expand a bit more on each character. Some of the sections were just too short for me. I felt like I wanted to know more about the mothers than she described. Part of this is because I think each character's story could probably have been turned into a novel itself. There was so much she could expand on that it must have been hard to break it up into segments.

2. As it seems to be with a lot of the books I read, I had to keep going back to check the names to make sure I knew the story behind who they were talking about. It was a bit confusing since the voices of the characters were very similar, but it got better toward the end. Tan gave enough clues in the stories toward the end that I was able to distinguish the characters more.

3. I didn't like some of the things the mothers said about Americans. Some of them were true but some were very much a stereotypical stretch.

4 out of 5 stars

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