I really did not know what to expect with The Joy Luck Club and was pleased to realize it was truly an homage to that thorny relationship between mothers and daughters. While Chinese culture and the immigrant experience was certainly significant throughout the book, the unique familial relationship could best be represented as a tinderbox for any culture.
Four Chinese immigrant women gather around a Mahjong board weekly for what appears to be a simple game and socializing, but it is from here that we hear the intriguing and sometimes, heartbreaking stories of their relationships with their mothers and their daughters.
June “Jing-mei” Woo is the story’s central character. After her mother’s death, she takes her seat at the Mahjong table where she learns much about herself and her mother from her mother’s friends. Never feeling that she’s met her family’s expectations, she is panicked when asked to travel to China to meet her long lost sisters and bear the news of their mother’s death. Stop comparing yourself to everyone else and see what a beautiful person you are.
Mother to June, Suyuan is a gruff and critical woman to family as well as to friends. She finds fault with merchants and tenants and is quick to point out their failings. This behavior shields her from thinking of her past decisions and the resulting losses she suffered. Take off the armor and let down your guard.
The pride and joy of the Jong family, Waverly, is seemingly perfect. A chess prodigy as a child, she has grown up to be a successful attorney and is very prideful. Like June, she clashes with her mother’s un-American views and discounts the wisdom she departs. A swift kick in the rear might set her straight.
The obvious topic for a conversation with Ms. Tan would be our mothers…Aii-ya! I’d love to compare notes and commiserate with her over those unasked questions we’ll never get the answers to. Perhaps she’d share some of the inspirations that drive her forward.
My rating for The Joy Luck Club is an 8 out of 10.
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