Thursday, March 8, 2007

The Joy Luck Club

The Joy Luck Club
by Amy Tan
$14.00 at ISBN: 143038095
Nailing down what this book is "about" is difficult. You could say that it's about mothers and daughters, the role of women in society, and all that. A vagina monologue. It's also a book about Asian Americans, trying to keep their unique culture while they see successive generations losing the connection to their roots. What I found more interesting than any of this were the fairy tales and the beauty of events that took place in China. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
The novel opens as June Woo loses her mother, Suyuan, to a brain aneurysm. Suyuan, along with three other ladies from the old country, played mah-jong each week and with her death, the other ladies ask June to take her place. This is really just the set-up. Most of the story revolves around the four women, their lives in China, how they came to America, and their relationships with their now grown children. Life was very hard in China at that time (the country was at war with Japan, it's the 1940s when the mothers' generation is young). The conflict between the generations results as Chinese daughters are expected to be obedient while American girls are independent. Also many traditions which are important parts of the parents' culture are considered meaningless superstitions by the children.
So while it may look like a chick book, it's fun anyone, even a manly man like me, can enjoy. One of the mothers resorts to infant exposure, one of the daughters plays chess and nearly goes mad under the pressure to win. I even learned a little about chess. Bonus! The point is there's plenty going on in the story, so a man can read it even though a lot of it is about feelings. If you are a man, why not read it with your mother, sister, or another important woman in your life? Published in 1989 and made into a movie in 1993 (I haven 't seen it), it's an enjoyable though sometimes sad stories about the old Chinese truth: this too shall pass.

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