The Joy Luck Club

An Annotated Book Review by student Simon Kawasaki

Joy Luck Club Book Review

In the historical fiction novel The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan, a finalist National book nominee, Four mothers and four daughters who are immigrants from China come to 1949 San Francisco, and become dear friends, assembling a club called the “Joy Luck Club.” Overall, I thought this book was one excellent book, and I would recommend it to anyone seeking to read it.

The main conflict is that each daughter has a “clattered” relationship with their mother, and that each has to try to do something to make up their relationship with their mother. For example, a daughter named Jing-Mei Woo was practically being forced to become a “child spectacular” by her mother, Suyuan Woo. As each tells their story, their life becomes more tangled; more filled with other predicaments. A daughter named Waverly Jong becomes a chess expert, and her mother, Lindo Jong, loves to brag about her to random strangers. However, Waverly gets tired of this constant bragging, and soon Waverly snaps at her mother, causing a bend in her relationship with her mother. A few years later, Waverly has gotten engaged to a man named Rich, and Waverly is frightened to tell Lindo because she thinks Lindo will spot irrelevant flaws with rich, to try to make the poor daughter feel guilty. However, Lindo does not spot that much flaws with Rich. The lesson of her story is to probably trust her elders, and to heed what they say.

What I liked about the novel was the extreme use of first person point of view. Of course, most historically fictional novels have first person points of view, but this novel really pushes the “first person” in first person point of view! I actually feel like I am the character, feeling the same feelings as the reader! I also like some of the dramatic turns (I won’t give any away!) of the novel.

One thing I didn’t like about the novel was the lack of personality of the narrator(s). Most of the time, the narrator in the Joy Luck Club is a bland and boring character. Yes, she does exciting things, but you never get to know her true personality. This always makes me cringe! Of course, overtime the reader will develop a special relationship with the narrator(s), but alas, the reader doesn’t know the narrators’ personality as well as he/she could have.

Overall, I have to agree with the many reviewers who gave this book excellent criticism (NYT, etc.) because I love this book. It is extremely historically accurate. I would like to recommend this book to anyone having family problems, or going through conflicts with someone close, because in the book they have this situation a lot. I would rate this book five stars out of five.

Historical Accuracy

To my surprise, the book I read didn't make very many references to nonfictional events, for the book focused more on the plot with the daughters and the mothers. I feel like the book would have been better with MORE historical details. I feel that it would put more of a picture in my head of the readers' minds. Sometimes when I read, I got lost in the story thinking it was modern times, because Amy Tan did not make many references to the year.. Although this book was extremely riveting, I would've liked to see more historical events in the novel.

Waverly Place

"My mother named me after the street that we lived on: Waverly Place Jong, my official name for important American documents. But my family called me Meimei, 'Little Sister.'"

This location, called "the street of the painted balconies", is a small street in San Francisco Chinatown. In fact, it is still there today! It's strange nickname is because of the many buildings' vibrant paints. This street used to also be nicknamed "15 cent street" because you could get a 15 cent haircut. Now it is $6.

In one of the beginning chapters of Joy Luck Club, a girl named Waverly Jong has immigrated to San Francisco Chinatown, and lived in Waverly Place. Obviously, she was named after Waverly Place. There, she liked to prank American tourists with her friends, and run away, shrieking with laughter. Waverly soon became a chess expert, and all of Chinatown was talking about her.

Short Narrative piece in Suyuan Woo's Point of Veiw

Dear Diary,

The Japanese are coming fast. I can already hear the footsteps of the soldiers. Many people have been looking for places to live, and not just Chinese, but Shanghainese, Cantonese, anything you can think of. My husband was an officer of the Kuomintang, and he was worried about me and my two babies. So he took my two babies and I to Kweilin, the mountainous place in China I had always dreamed about. Although I was happy in Kweilin, I lived in constant fear, picking which mountains hid Japanese from behind them. But one day, an officer came running towards me, and told me to go to my husband in the Chinese town called Chungking. Me and the other villagers marched to the Chinese town, but soon I realized people were getting tired. They had dropped all of their belongings. Soon I got tired, and I had to drop my silk dresses, even my two poor children... It seems like nothing will get better now.

-Suyuan Woo

Joy Luck Club Haiku

Soon they will perceive

Their destiny with mothers'

And their grand future.