Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Joy Luck Club

Page 25: “What was worse, we asked among ourselves, to sit and wait for our own deaths with somber faces? Or to choose our own happiness? So we decided to hold parties and pretend each week had become the new year. Each week we could forget past wrongs done to us. We weren’t allowed to think a bad thought. We feasted, we laughed, we played games, lost and won, we told the best stories. And each week, we can hope to be lucky. That hope was our only joy. And that’s how we came to call our little parties Joy Luck.”

In The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan brings us back and forth—a flashback—between the lives of four Chinese women in China before coming to the US, and the lives of their American-born daughters. In one book is sixteen stories cleverly weaved by the author that portrays the mother-daughter bond: love and misunderstanding between the two generations; loyalty and obedience. Here’s a glimpse of who those people are:

The Mothers / The Daughters

  1. Suyuan Woo / Jing-mei “June” Woo
  2. An-mei Hsu / Rose Hsu Jordan
  3. Lindo Jong / Waverly Jong
  4. Ying-ying St. Clair / Lena St. Clair

Suyuan Woo passed away leaving the 36-year-old Jing-mei to take over her mother’s position at the Joy Luck Club (JLC). She reminisces about her mother’s life in China and in the latest JLC meet-up she is urged by the Joy Luck aunties to look for her sisters (of different father) in China and to tell them about their mother. “Tell them stories she told you, lessons she taught, what you know about her mind that has become your mind,” says Auntie Ying. Jing-mei promises to do so.

And then, there is the story of An-mei’s childhood and how her mother was being chased out of the house leaving her behind with her little brother. Their aunt and her husband took care of the siblings but they were not treated well. We also discover how An-mei got the scar on her neck. Slowly, the memory of her mother disappears and so is her wound. “And once it is closed, you no longer see what is underneath, what started the pain.”

As for Lindo, she is forced into marriage at a very young age. Even after she got married, her husband never once shows any desire for her and therefore, she cannot bear an heir for the family. This means trouble as her mother-in-law is longing for a grandson. She seeks her own way out of the marriage without compromising her position.

At the age of four, Ying-ying yearns to tell the Moon Lady her secret wish: she wishes to be found.

The story then swings forward into the lives of these elderly women’s daughters. The daughters have their own pain and struggles too: difficult marriages, breakups, uncertainties. Readers will experience the cultural differences between these two generations. It is a touching read; captivating storytelling.

Note: I borrowed the book from my colleague PS. I've totally enjoyed reading it. Thanks, PS!

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