Title: The Joy Luck Club
Author: Amy Tan
Series info: Standalone
The first time I ever heard of/saw this book was when I was going through book lists for a 2020 Popsugar Reading Challenge prompt. The prompt was to read a book set in a country starting with “C” and this book fit because it’s set in China during some parts.
It was only after I read the book that I found it being mentioned everywhere. It is quite popular! Unknowingly, I had read a book which is revered as a classic.
The book tells the stories of four pairs of mothers and daughters. The elder women lived a part of their life in China and migrated to America through different circumstances. Their daughters are born in America and grow up with very different values and ideals.
This book explores the differences in these women’s lives and the divide between them due to vastly different upbringings.
Let me preface by saying that this review consists of my opinions only and my reading experience might not be the same as many others.
The Joy Luck Club is a beautifully written book that explores Asian-American mother-daughter relationships where the mothers and the daughters barely know each other.
And it is possible for all of them to barely know each other because the parenting style of Asian moms is very different. The thing I found common is that mothers concentrate so much on giving to their daughters and raising them well that they miss out on talking about their own experiences.
The mothers are basically trying to pass on the learnt lessons without putting their daughters through knowing of those experiences that taught those lessons. Children shouldn’t have to go through the hardships of their own to learn the same things.
“Then you must teach my daughter this same lesson. How to lose your innocence but not your hope. How to laugh forever.”
But in fact, this is what causes the divide between the mothers and daughters. The American born and bred daughters do not understand why their Chinese mothers say things or demand that they do certain things.
“So this is what I will do. I will gather together my past and look. I will see a thing that has already happened. the pain that cut my spirit loose. I will hold that pain in my hand until it becomes hard and shiny, more clear. And then my fierceness can come back, my golden side, my black side. I will use this sharp pain to penetrate my daughter’s tough skin and cut her tiger spirit loose. She will fight me, because this is the nature of two tigers. But I will win and giver her my spirit, because this is the way a mother loves her daughter.”
The book shows us the experiences of these eight women in different stages of their lives. We read about the mothers’ lives back when they were in China and how they came to America. We also read through the daughters’ points of view where they are only exposed to American ideals.
Each of their lives are full of meaning, mistakes, overcomings and fights for freedom. It was very interesting to read about them not only because each experience was intriguing but especially to realise just how different their lives are.
I especially loved reading about the mothers’ lives. The way they show emotion, the way they react to things, and even simple opinions differ so much because of how their life was in China.
“Now you see,’ said the turtle, drifting back into the pond, ‘why it is useless to cry. Your tears do not wash away your sorrows. They feed someone else’s joy. And that is why you must learn to swallow your own tears.”
Although each chapter was interesting to read and was beautifully written, I was not able to enjoy the book as a whole. These very different stories are not part of a whole. They’re completely different narrations and lives that are interlocked by thin threads and these threads don’t have much substance to them.
The way these stories are connected is not important because the point of the book is the stories themselves, individually and as part of their respective mother-daughter duo.
And because of that, I cannot really review taking the entire book into picture. I liked the individual stories themselves but as a book, where they are all supposed to a part of something, it fell short.
At no time was so I interested in the book that I left everything else to continue reading it. Or I wasn’t entranced enough to get back to it really fast. In fact, the book took me quite a while to read.
“There’s no hope. There’s no reason to keep trying.
Because you must. This is not hope. Not reason. This is your fate. This is your life, what you must do.”
The best feature of the book is the writing. The writing is so beautiful that each sentence is infused with meaning and emotion. There is no sentence, no word, that is useless or out of space.
And there are so many lines that are teachings. There are several quotable sentences that I had a hard time picking what to show in this post.
“Wisdom is like a bottomless pond. You throw stones in and they sink into darkness and dissolve. Her eyes looking back do not reflect anything.
I think this to myself even though I love my daughter. She and I have shared the same body. There is a part of her mind that is a part of mine. But when she was born she sprang from me like a slippery fish, and has been swimming away ever since. All her life, I have watched her as though from another shore.”
It’s definitely a lovely book but I was not able to enjoy it as much as I’m sure a lot of other readers would.
If you’re interested in books that explore complicated relationships, have beautiful writing and also show a lot about cultures, you will probably like this one.
I rate this book..