Gabrielle's Reviews > The Joy Luck Club

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
Rate this book
Clear rating

by
6753400
's review

liked it
bookshelves: cultural-shock, contemporary, used-bookstore-finds, read-in-2019, own-a-copy, reviewed

Books like “The Joy Luck Club” are not really my usual fare, but I was curious about this one: I do enjoy stories about people who live in an overlap of different cultures, because that’s something I am quite familiar with; the preservation of cultural patrimony is also something very close to home, as both sides of my family tree are adamant about keeping their traditions alive, even if they have been in Canada for a generation or two at this point.

When Suyuan passes away, her daughter June is asked to take her place in the mah-jong club she founded when she arrived in America; by talking with her mother’s friends, their husbands and children, she will come to understand her in a way that might have not been possible had she still been alive. I think that the best way to enjoy this book is to take it as a collection of interconnected character studies, and the mutual influence their experience had on each other. Mother-daughter relationships are such a tricky thing to capture well, and Tan knows full well that such bonds are rife with love, but also misunderstandings. I have often wondered if parents will ever be able to truly understand their children, and vice versa.

The four Chinese women who emigrate to San Francisco after living through terrible hardships have a perspective their daughters simply don’t have. They want to preserve a patrimony, an echo of their culture, but their daughters do not feel the pull of a lost homeland, and simply want to live where they are now, in America. They grew up side by side with American kids, who find their parents’ ways strange and archaic, and don’t really get why they hang on so desperately to their ties to a place that saw the worse days of their lives unfold.

I know the book got very criticized about the stereotypical portrayals it features, and I admit that this is certainly a flaw. But from a point of view of pure literary enjoyment, I was more bothered by how choppy and repetitive it was. While the characters have very interesting stories, they can be hard to tell apart, though the classic repetition of patterns from generation to generation is perhaps more accurate than we might think. I think that if the book had focused only one mother-daughter duo, it might have had more room to breathe and develop the story. As it was, I felt that it was too episodic for me to get fully engaged.

Nevertheless, a lovely read about a layered and complicated subject. Worth checking out!
18 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read The Joy Luck Club.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

May 11, 2019 – Shelved
May 11, 2019 – Shelved as: to-read
May 11, 2019 – Shelved as: cultural-shock
May 11, 2019 – Shelved as: contemporary
May 25, 2019 – Started Reading
May 26, 2019 – Shelved as: used-bookstore-finds
May 26, 2019 – Shelved as: read-in-2019
May 26, 2019 –
page 50
14.2%
May 26, 2019 – Shelved as: own-a-copy
May 27, 2019 –
page 103
29.26%
May 29, 2019 –
page 185
52.56%
May 30, 2019 – Shelved as: reviewed
May 30, 2019 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-4 of 4 (4 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Candi (new) - added it

Candi Great review, Gabrielle. I've had this book on my list for a long time but have hesitated to actually pick it up thus far. I suspect I would have the same problems with the repetition and choppiness you mention. I'll try something by Tan one of these days, just because I am curious as well :)


Gabrielle Candi wrote: "Great review, Gabrielle. I've had this book on my list for a long time but have hesitated to actually pick it up thus far. I suspect I would have the same problems with the repetition and choppines..."

Thanks Candi! The book has a lot of good things going for it, but the lack of deep dig into the characters frustrated me. I'd be curious about her other work!


message 3: by Vicky (new)

Vicky "phenkos" (semi-hiatus) Nice review! I wasn't aware of this particular collection, but have read A World of Difference: An Anthology of Short Stories from Five Continents which includes Joy Luck Club. I have to say that this story was the one I liked the least - a bit of a shame as the theme is quite interesting, and I normally enjoy immigrant mother-daughter perspectives...


Gabrielle Vicky wrote: "Nice review! I wasn't aware of this particular collection, but have read A World of Difference: An Anthology of Short Stories from Five Continents which includes Joy Luck Club. I hav..."

Thank you Vicky! That collection sounds very interesting, I'll check it out. That theme is very interesting to me too: perhaps my hopes were too high, especially given all the gushing reviews!


back to top