Disclaimer: I am not paid by or affiliated with any organization, author, or publisher, and everything I write here is of my own opinion.
When I first picked up Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club, I didn’t know what to expect, but after quickly scanning over the summary and eyeing the two colorful Chinese dragons on the novel’s front cover, I was excited about the culture I would be introduced to upon opening the book. And boy was I not disappointed in the least. This book is the epitome of Chinese culture, from the section titles like Feathers from a Thousand Li Away to the powerful Chinese mothers and their philosophies. But this book isn’t only a great choice for those who love studying ethnicities and cultures but for mothers and daughters as well. That’s all this book is truly about: four stumbling mother-daughter relationships. If your mother-daughter relationship has hit a rocky patch and you both thoroughly enjoy having your face stuffed in a book, then this is a MUST read. You do not have to be Chinese to understand what it is trying to teach you.
Though this novel is great, it does contain some major faults. I would first like to point out that a story’s job is to keep its reader engaged throughout its whole. When I began reading this book, even though I was captivated by each word I consumed, I still became quite perplexed. Separately, each chapter was beautifully written, but together they just seemed to become a muddled mess. I had trouble deciphering the connection between the individual stories, but I continued to push myself through it. It wasn’t until I had made it to the second of the four parts that understanding began to dawn on me and the link was established. Even so, it took me longer to read the first part then it did the last three parts put together, and this is something that should have been avoided.
I would now like to warn that this novel is made up of four independent mother-daughter relationships joined together by the joy luck club itself. The confusion this caused could have also been prevented. As I read, I found myself continuously flipping back to past stories asking myself things like, “Okay, so this is the daughter of this mother? And this mother was?…Oh! She was the one who had that happen to her.” Frustrating, right? And this happened at every single new chapter. To keep myself from intermixing certain mother-daughter relationships with others, I had to rewind to past reading, refresh my memory and gain the proper background information depending on which relationship I was on, and then – and only then – could I proceed to the new chapter. I would almost warn people to take out some paper and form their own little diagrams, which is much easier than scavenger hunting through the entire novel. If I had been Amy Tan, I would have turned this novel into four completely separate short stories that would fit together in a series called “The Joy Luck Club.” This way the different characters wouldn’t become so jumbled together.
All in all, I did enjoy this book, but I would not recommend it to inexperienced readers for it is by no means an easy read. They would probably consider their bewilderment as proof that they shouldn’t be allowed to pick up a book at all. (I know some people like this.) If you are a more practiced reader, you must read this novel with an open mind, the patience it deserves, and maybe even a piece of notebook paper, but I do recommend it for The Joy Luck Club really is a fascinating cluster of stories.
My rating: ★★★
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