Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Pages: 332
Genre: Fiction (Chinese American)
Series: No
Publication Date: 1989

Synopsis (From ):
A stunning literary achievement, The Joy Luck Club explores the tender and tenacious bond between four daughters and their mothers. The daughters know one side of their mothers, but they don't know about their earlier never-spoken of lives in China. The mothers want love and obedience from their daughters, but they don't know the gifts that the daughters keep to themselves. Heartwarming and bittersweet, this is a novel for mother, daughters, and those that love them.

in December I did a review on "The House on Mango Street" by Sandra Cisneros. These two book don't really compare in anyway but in style. They are both vignette. The author chooses to show the reader little snips of the characters life. While "The House on Mango Street" was told for the point of view of one character, "The Joy Luck Club" combines the lives of 8 women (4 mothers and their daughters) masterfully.

There is no real main character in this story all the characters (and their stories) are equally important and equally engaging. While the book was not a page turner, I did care what happen to all the characters. It was very intriguing to know how all the mothers came to America and how their experiences shaped how the raised each of their perspective daughters. For the daughters it was more interesting to watch them try to navigate being Chinese and American. I did not get the feeling in the book that the mothers ever wanted to fit into American culture and that they did not really what their children to either. They wanted them to have Chinese values with American opportunity. While the daughters just wanted to be Chinese.

At times I felt myself siding with the daughters because to me it seemed that the mothers had no understanding of who their daughters were. It appeared that the mothers just wanted them to be obey all their wishing, sacrificing their own. I don't know if Tan did this on purpose but I is kind of confusing. Because some of the mothers hardship seems to come from just obeying and not thinking. And these women (the mothers) than expect their daughters to do the same thing.

What I really like about this book was the style that it was written in sometimes it was like reading a fairy tale (almost "Like Water for Chocolate") but more realistic. The imaginary was beautiful and caught my imagination quickly. I kept having this thought that I would love to see this as a foreign film where the whole thing has to be translated. I know that there is a movie, I even saw it years ago. But I don't remember the movie being as vivid as the book.

Another positive with this book is that with the daughters Tan was able to portray the idea of what it is like to grow up as a second generation immigrant. In this case not quite American but not quite Chinese. The daughters have to struggle with what their mother are trying to teach them about being Chinese, which often comes out like riddles, and what they think the should know about being American. The mothers and daughters struggle with this battle between being Chinese and being American. Almost like they can't do both.

One of the negatives I had was that the mothers sometimes came for as stereotypes. I think this is sometimes a problem when people of color try to write books that not only speak to their experience and culture but will also appeal to a wider audience.

Imagery, Characters, Stories, Internal Conflict
Stereotype Like Characters

Overall Recommendation:
This wasn't a page turner for me but I would recommend it to anyone. It was a nice beautifully written that is fairly quick and easy to read.


Decades '09 (1 out of 9)
TBR Challenge (2 out of 12)

ALA Best Books for Young Adults
Commonwealth Club of California Book Awards (Sliver)

Also, if you have a review of this book or any other book reviewed on my site. Post a link to that review in the comment section so, I can link back to you.


  1. "Chinese values with American opportunity." Wow - you nailed it with that line!

    Very nice review -- I really enjoyed it. (And I love your blog!)

  2. Thanks for stopping by and leaving the comment.

  3. I've enjoyed this book. Thanks for the review, Monique!

  4. Nice review. I agree about the mothers being somewhat stereotyped -- especially as described in America. But their experiences in China were more realistic.

    I read this a long time ago and I remember it sent me looking for more about China and their 20th-century immigration experience.

  5. Beth, I also found the mothers' China experiences more realistic i wish she could have kept that up when they came to America.