The Joy Luck Club is not a volume of adventure, action or romance—but it is equally spellbinding as a novel about tradition and family. The book is composed of sixteen entwined stories that draw you into their depths and plunge you into a poignant tale of love and loss.
The book begins with a girl named Jing-Mei Woo, an American girl whose parents emigrated from China. When Jing-Mei’s mother passes away, she is invited to take her place in the ‘Joy Luck Club’—a club founded by Jing Mei’s mother, where she and three friends meet every week to play mahjong, feast on delicious food and talk about their fortunes. Jing-Mei had never given the tradition much thought, but through meeting the other women, she is introduced to her mother’s troublesome past, and she journeys to China to reconcile with a part of her she thought she had long lost.
And thus unfolds a series of stories told by each of the four Chinese immigrant women and their American-born children. The mothers tell tales of growing up in wartime China, suffocating under layers of oppression. They leap to life on the pages, their stories shaping them and making them who they are. Their stories define them. The daughters tell stories of difficulties with their parents and in marriage. Through hearing all their stories, we begin to see similarities and differences between each mother-daughter pairing. We find that mother and daughter are more alike then they seem, but they all seem to have qualities that define them as a person. We begin to understand both of them, whereas they only seem to understand themselves.
The cultural obstacles faced are great: the daughters continuously reject their Chinese heritage and look down on their mothers’ broken English, while the mothers grow impatient with their daughters’ inability to embrace their roots. All this is made even worse by the language barriers. Subtle mistranslations build up until everything becomes a huge jumble of misunderstanding.
Cultural identity, family, fortune and destiny are woven together in a way that is sometimes funny, sometimes light, sometimes moving. This might not be the type of thrilling book you devour in one sitting, but will definitely be one where you can savor every page and come back to again and again, finding more hidden jewels every single time. These sixteen stories, though they may seem confusing in the beginning, interlock and weave together a seamless story about love and loss, discovering others, and discovering your own self.
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