By: Chelsey Sabilla
Amy Tan’s best-selling book The Joy Luck Club explores the difficulties of mother-daughter relationships.
Jing-Mei’s mother, Suyuan, began the San Francisco version of the Joy Luck Club. She was also started the original Joy Luck Club in Kweilin, China during WWII.
Each week Suyuan and her three friends would gather to play Mahjong for money. Every week they would take turns hosting this meeting and serving special kinds of food to bring good luck. Once they began playing no one was allowed to speak.
They played seriously and only thought about winning in order to their happiness. After sixteen rounds they would feast, this time to celebrate their good fortune and to talk all through the night exchanging stories of good times.
After Jing-Mei’s mother dies, her father asks her to replace her mother as the owner of the club.
Like the game, Mah Jong, the book has four parts and is further divided into four sections to create sixteen chapters. Each part is preceded by a parable relating to the game. The book is a collection of vignettes shared by three mothers (Suyuan’s friends) and four daughters relating stories from their lives. The mothers are Chinese immigrants and think the Chinese way, while their daughters are Chinese-American and think the American way.
The Joy Luck Club describes the mother-daughter relationships, which are even more complex by the cultural differences that exist between the daughters and their mothers. The Chinese mothers belong to a culture where women are expected to know and understand certain things without anyone having to tell them, and in the same way, they expect their daughters to understand and know things the same way they did, but their daughters were born into a different culture and do not understand the unspoken thoughts and words of their mothers.
This book was inspired by an incident from the author’s mother’s life. Tan’s mother, Daisy, had once been married to an abusive man in China. She had four children, three daughters and one son. Her son died as a toddler, and she was forced to leave her three daughters in Shanghai when she emigrated to America. In 1987 Tan travelled with her mother to China and there, she finally met her three half-sisters.
This book is a great read for its captivating stories of merging cultures, the beautiful way these stories are told, and most of all, for the thoughts these stories make clear.