By: Amy Tan
Published Year: 1989
Publisher: Penguin Books
This month’s pick was my choice. I originally had picked The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary, but then found out that it wasn’t going to be released in the US until May 28th, and book club was help on June 1st. As a result, I had to find a different option at the last minute. Since I enjoyed Crazy Rich Asians last summer, I thought it would be fun to check out one Kwan’s inspirations.
Summary (Provided by Goodreads): Four mothers, four daughters, four families whose histories shift with the four winds depending on who's "saying" the stories. In 1949 four Chinese women, recent immigrants to San Francisco, begin meeting to eat dim sum, play mahjong, and talk. United in shared unspeakable loss and hope, they call themselves the Joy Luck Club. Rather than sink into tragedy, they choose to gather to raise their spirits and money. "To despair was to wish back for something already lost. Or to prolong what was already unbearable." Forty years later the stories and history continue.
With wit and sensitivity, Amy Tan examines the sometimes painful, often tender, and always deep connection between mothers and daughters. As each woman reveals her secrets, trying to unravel the truth about her life, the strings become more tangled, more entwined. Mothers boast or despair over daughters, and daughters roll their eyes even as they feel the inextricable tightening of their matriarchal ties. Tan is an astute storyteller, enticing readers to immerse themselves into these lives of complexity and mystery.
What I thought
This book was absolutely nothing like I expected.
I thought that this was going to be a story about the Joy Luck Club, and after the first chapter, thought it was going to involve June traveling to China to meet her long lost half-sisters. Instead, it felt more like a series of short stories about 8 Chinese and Chinese-American women. The only time the Joy Luck Club even meets is in the first chapter.
At first, I was a bit confused and frustrated as I couldn’t follow along with what was going on or where the story was going. It wasn’t until I viewed it as short stories that I was able to appreciate the stories and the writing. It was still confusing at times trying to remember who was who and which characters were related to which ones. Some of the daughters’ stories were similar, so it was a little difficult for me to keep some of the details straight.
When I finished the book, I felt like I had enjoyed it and that I liked the insight into the Chinese and Chinese-American culture. But looking back on it, I do feel like some of the stories were left unfinished. It was like I got a glimpse into everybody’s lives, but that I didn’t get to see much of what happened. I think if there is a sequel (I have no idea of there is or is not) I would read it, in hopes of finding out what happened to these characters.
What Book Club Thought
Well… I think it says a lot when only 2/5 book club members finish the book. Everyone agreed that it was difficult to follow the characters and remember who was connected to who. As a result, it was hard to connect to the characters themselves. I think overall, there were bits that were interesting that we wish had been capitalized on more, but that in the end we just didn’t get it. the other consensus was that if the first chapter had been the entire book, we would’ve liked it much more. We are all curious about the movie now, none of us are sure how this book translates to movie format.