I deviated from my usual reads of mystery novels by reading The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan.
I found this 1989 paperback printing in a book sale and thought, “Why the hell not? I’ve seen positive reviews and praises of it; why shouldn’t I read it to find out why the fuss over it?”
I was hooked just after the introductory essay.
After reading it for almost a week, I discovered that Joy Luck is a collection of short stories told by four Chinese mothers and their four Chinese-American daughters about their lives in China and America–a combination of past recollections and experiences, as well as present encounters and events. It is the classic mother-daughter story similar to that in the movie, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. Each sub-chapter (which can stand on its own) is a story about a person (either the mother or the daughter), which then comprises a chapter on the specific generation.
Since each sub-chapter is a different story, it can be a fast read; it only took me almost a week to finish it because after a sub-chapter, I didn’t feel the impulse to go on reading due to the fact that each sub-chapter is a different story that can stand on its own. You could choose to postpone reading since you won’t get lost when you continue from your last stop. That would be the trouble with this kind of book, although not for most bibliophiles who could easily finish it in a jiffy. It wasn’t boring, it certainly was engrossing, but it can be easy to put it down after a couple of sub-chapters–unless you’re enormously fascinated by it.
Although I wasn’t able to read his book rather, properly, words from the different recollections still linger on my mind:
“I have a wish,” I said in a whisper, and still she did not hear me. So I walked closer yet, until I could see the face of the Moon Lady: shrunken cheeks, a broad oily nose, large glaring teeth, and red-stained eyes. A face so tired that she wearily pulled off her hair, her long gown fell from her shoulders. And as the secret wish fell from my lips, the Moon Lady looked at me and became a man.
—Ying-Ying St. Clair, The Joy Luck Club (paperback), June 1992, page 83
For unlike my mother, I did not believe I could be anything I wanted to be. I could only be me.
…why she had hoped for something so large that failure was inevitable.
—Jing-Mei Woo, The Joy Luck Club (paperback), June 1992, page 154
At first, I thought I would encounter some difficulty since I am not used to remembering Chinese names; however, as my reading advanced, I found it rather easy to remember the characters. Among the mothers, I was fond of An-Mei Hsu and Ying-Ying St. Clair. As for the daughters, I saw part of myself in the main protagonist, Jing-Mei Woo.
As I read about the tales of each person, I was revolted at the behavior of the mothers when it came to their children. They wanted their daughters to be geniuses, child-prodigies; so they could be proud of them and foolishly show them off. I just hate parents like those, passing on their unfulfilled desires to their children. Perhaps their (the mothers) frustration of a proud life was feeding them that they wanted their children not to experience the unsuccessful life that they had. Still, I found it extremely stupid to think in this old-fashioned way, not accepting the new world and new schools of thought.
This is a feel-good novel, the sum of 16 novelletes, which endear and amuse the reader to Chinese custom, tales, and tradition. It certainly was wonderful to have had the joy and the luck, to read The Joy Luck Club.