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The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
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The Joy Luck Club (1989)

by Amy Tan (Author)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
12,796142181 (3.87)245
  1. 31
    Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang (Jennie_103)
    Jennie_103: Another story of generations of chinese women.
  2. 00
    Fifth Chinese Daughter by Jade Snow Wong (Imprinted)
  3. 00
    Sweet Mandarin: The Courageous True Story of Three Generations of Chinese Women and Their Journey from East to West by Helen Tse (elbakerone)
  4. 00
    Krik? Krak! by Edwidge Danticat (Othemts)
    Othemts: In a superficial way this book reminds me of the stories of Amy Tan in that they show the strains of relationships between mothers and daughters, immigrants and American-born.
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English (132)  Dutch (4)  Catalan (3)  French (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (141)
Showing 1-5 of 132 (next | show all)
Mothers
Suyuan Woo
During the Second Sino-Japanese War, Suyuan lives in Kweilin while her husband at the time served as an officer in Chungking (Chongqing). She starts the original Joy Luck Club with her three friends to cope with the war. On the day of the Japanese invasion, Suyuan leaves her house with nothing but a bag of clothes, a bag of food, and her twin baby daughters.
During the long journey, Suyuan contracts such severe dysentery that she feels certain she will die. Fearing that a dead mother would doom her babies' chances of rescue, she reluctantly and emotionally leaves her daughters under a barren tree, together with all her belongings, along with a note asking anyone who might find the babies to care for them. Suyuan then departs, expecting to die, but is rescued herself. She later remarries, comes to America, forms a new Joy Luck Club with three other Chinese female immigrants she met at church, and gives birth to another daughter. But her abandonment of the twin girls haunts her for the rest of her life. After many years, Suyuan learns that the twins were adopted, but dies of a brain aneurysm before she can meet them. It is her American-born daughter Jing-mei who fulfills her long-cherished wish of reuniting with her elder twin half-sisters.
As Suyuan dies before the novel begins, her history is told by Jing-mei, based on her knowledge of her mother's stories, anecdotes from her father, and what the other members of the Joy Luck Club tell her.
An-Mei Hsu
An-Mei is raised by her grandparents and other relatives during her early years in Ningbo after her widowed mother shocks the family by becoming a concubine to a middle-aged wealthy man after her first husband's death. This becomes a source of conflict for the young An-Mei, as her aunts and uncles deeply resent her mother for such a dishonorable act, and they try to convince An-Mei that she is not fit to live with her disgraced mother; now forbidden to enter the family home. An-Mei's mother, however, still wishes to be part of her daughter's life. After An-Mei's grandmother died, she lives with her mother in the home of her mother's new husband, Wu-Tsing. An-Mei learns that her mother became Wu-Tsing's concubine through the manipulations of his favorite concubine known as Second Wife, who arranged a plan for An-Mei's mother, still in mourning for her original husband, to be raped by Wu-Tsing. The stigma left An-Mei's mother with no choice but to marry Wu-Tsing and become his new but lowly Fourth Wife. She later lost her baby son to Second Wife, who claimed the boy as her own child to ensure her place in the household. Second Wife also tried to win over An-mei upon her arrival in Wu-Tsing's mansion, giving her a necklace made of "pearls" that her mother later revealed were actually opaque glass orbs by crushing one with her foot.
Wu-Tsing is a highly superstitious man, and Second Wife took advantage of this weakness by making false suicide attempts and threatening to haunt him as a ghost if he did not let her have her way. According to Chinese tradition, a person's soul comes back after three days to settle scores with the living. Wu-Tsing, therefore, was afraid to face the ghost of an angry or scorned wife. After Second Wife used a suicide attempt to prevent An-Mei and her mother from getting their own household, An-Mei's mother successfully committed suicide herself. She timed her death so that her soul would be due to return on the first day of the new year, a day when all debts must be settled lest the debtor suffer great misfortune. With this in mind, Wu-Tsing promised to treat his Fourth Wife's children, including An-Mei, as if they were his very own flesh and blood by an honored First Wife. When Second Wife attempted to disrupt this, An-Mei crushed the fake pearl necklace Second Wife gave beneath her feet to show her awareness of all the deception and to symbolize her new power over Second Wife, who now fears and realizes the bad karma she brought upon herself.
An-Mei later immigrates to America, marries, and gives birth to children.
Lindo Jong
Lindo is a strong-willed woman, a trait her daughter Waverly attributes to her having been born in the year of the Horse. When Lindo was only twelve, she was forced to move in with a neighbor's young son, Huang Tyan Yu, through the machinations of the village matchmaker. She married him when she was sixteen. She soon realized that her husband was just a little boy at heart and had no sexual interest in her. Lindo began to care for her husband as a brother, but her cruel mother-in-law expected Lindo to produce a grandson. She restricted most of Lindo's daily activities, eventually ordering her to remain on bed rest until she could conceive and deliver a child.
Determined to escape this unfortunate situation, Lindo carefully observed the other people in the household and eventually formed a clever plan to escape her marriage without dishonoring herself or her family. She managed to trick her young husband's family that he was actually fated to marry another girl who was already pregnant with his "spiritual child", and that her marriage to Huang Tyan Yu would only bring bad luck to the family. In reality, the girl in question was a mere servant in the household and indeed pregnant, but abandoned by her lover.
Freed of her first marriage, Lindo decided to emigrate to America. She married a Chinese-American man named Tin Jong and has three children: sons Winston and Vincent, and daughter Waverly.
Lindo experiences regret over losing some of her Chinese identity by living so long in America (she is treated like a tourist on a visit to China), however she expresses concern that Waverly's American upbringing has caused a barrier between them.
Ying-Ying "Betty" St. Clair
From a young age, Ying-Ying is told by her wealthy and conservative family that Chinese girls should be meek and gentle. She begins to develop a passive personality and repress her feelings as she grows up in Wuxi. Ying-Ying marries a charismatic man named Lin Xiao, not out of love, but because she believed it was her fate. Her husband is revealed to be abusive and openly has extramarital relationships with other women. After the birth of her son her husbands affairs become worse. Ying-Ying soon slips into a severe depression over her husband's infidelities and accidentally kills her son by drowning him in the bath tub during a bath.
After ten years, she moves to the city where she meets an American man named Clifford St. Clair. He falls in love with her, but Ying-Ying cannot express any strong emotion after her first marriage. He courts her for four years before she agrees to marry him after learning that Lin Xiao had died, which she takes as the proper sign to move on. She allows him to control most aspects of her life, mistranslating her words and actions, and even changing her name to "Betty." They give birth to two children, one daughter, Lena and a stillborn son.
Ying-Ying is horrified when she realizes that Lena has inherited her passive behaviors and trapped herself in a loveless marriage with a controlling husband. She finally resolves to tell her daughter her story in the hope that she will be able to break free from the same passivity that ruined most of her young life back in China.

[edit] Daughters
Jing-Mei "June" Woo
Jing-Mei has never fully understood her mother and seems directionless in life. During June's childhood, her mother used to tell her that she could be anything she wants; however, she particularly wanted her daughter to be gifted, like June's frenemy Waverly. At the beginning of the novel, June is chosen to replace her mother's seat in the Joy Luck Club after her mother's death. At the end of the novel, June is still trying to deal with her mother's death, and she visits China to see the twin half-sisters whom her mother had been forced to abandon when the Japanese attacked China.
Rose Hsu Jordan
Rose is somewhat passive and is a bit of a perfectionist. She has an unsettling childhood experience of when her youngest brother, Bing, drowned when she was supposed to be watching him and his body was never recovered. Rose marries a doctor, Ted Jordan. After a malpractice suit, Ted has a mid-life crisis and decides to leave Rose, who he married, in part, to spite his mother. When Ted comes for the divorce papers, she finds her voice and tells him that he can't just throw her out of his life, comparing herself to weeds in his garden, once so beloved, now unkempt and filthy. She wants to hire a good lawyer and fight for possession of the house, which she eventually wins.
Waverly Jong
Waverly is an independent-minded and intelligent woman, but is annoyed by her mother's constant criticism. Well into her adult life, she finds herself restrained by her subconscious fear of letting her mother down. During their childhood, June and Waverly become childhood rivals; their mothers compared their daughter's accomplishments. Waverly was once a gifted chess champion, but quit after arguing with her mother, who used her daughter's talent to show off. She has a daughter, Shoshana, from her first marriage, and is currently engaged to her boyfriend, an awkward though goodhearted man.
Lena St. Clair
Lena's husband, Harold, demands financial "equality" in their marriage. They are co-workers, but Lena is an associate while Harold is a partner, so he has a larger salary than she does. However, he insists that all household expenses be divided equally between them. Harold believes that by making everything equal, they can make their love equal as well, but Lena is frustrated with her life. Throughout Lena's childhood, she gradually becomes her mother's voice and interprets her mother's words in the place of her father.
  bostonwendym | Mar 3, 2016 |
5***** and a

This was the first Amy Tan book I read and I have been a fan every since. While there is a cultural divide to Tan's writing - the Asian experience and history, even Chinese sayings - there is a universality to the way she describes the mother/daughter relationship. The early dependence, the years of bickering to develop independence, the slow realization of your mother's truth, the final respect for your mother's background, her struggles, how she came to be your mother and always will be. ( )
  BookConcierge | Feb 19, 2016 |
A strange book, showing the lives of four Chinese families with individual portraits of the mothers and daughters. Sixteen chapters, four sections interleaved - so rather confusing at first. It's interesting at times, about Chinese life and adapting to American culture, and there's some sadness. Yet I couldn't get emotionally involved - it was almost like linked short stories, rather than a novel. Pleasant enough, but nothing special. ( )
  SueinCyprus | Jan 26, 2016 |
A beautiful, fascinating book about mothers and daughters ( )
  SabinaE | Jan 23, 2016 |
Tan creates endearing stories about mothers and daughters in this book. She takes us into the minds of chinese women in a way that I have never been previously exposed to in writing, which makes it very interesting to read about. The elements that she gives each character is such a human truth that you don't instantly think of the fact that these are chinese characters, but that they are people that you could bump into at the supermarket on a daily basis. Many times while reading this book I forgot that I was reading a book and not peering into the lives of actual people. To be able to create a world so focused and fine-tuned that one feels it is real is something only a skilled author can do and that is what I feel Amy Tan is.

The book takes us through many journeys of China from rich families, families broken up due to war, and to those coming to America for a better life. Each story is wrapped up beautifully, but also adds to the depth of the overall story of these women. If you want a story that speaks about powerful women without trying to intentionally make them powerful then this is a book to read because these women are real. They have true emotions and live true lives. Never do you question the motivation of any of the characters.

Tan doesn't describe scenes in my opinion, but gets us to understand the actions of the characters. She is able to make you understand to a pinpoint why a character is saying what they are in the book. Also you get a better understanding of an older generation vs. a younger generation because of this book. This truly is a gem and I look forward to reading some of her other works. ( )
  SoulFlower1981 | Jan 20, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 132 (next | show all)
In Tan's hands, these linked stories - diverse as they are - fit almost magically into a powerfully coherent novel, whose winning combination of ingredients - immigrant experience, mother-daughter ties, Pacific Rim culture - make it a book with the ``good luck'' to be in the right place at the right time.
 
In the hands of a less talented writer such thematic material might easily have become overly didactic, and the characters might have seemed like cutouts from a Chinese-American knockoff of ''Roots.'' But in the hands of Amy Tan, who has a wonderful eye for what is telling, a fine ear for dialogue, a deep empathy for her subject matter and a guilelessly straightforward way of writing, they sing with a rare fidelity and beauty. She has written a jewel of a book.
 

» Add other authors (21 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Tan, AmyAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Alfsen, MereteTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Holt, Heleen tenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To my mother and the memory of her mother. You asked me once what I would remember. This, and much more.
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The old woman remembered a swan she had bought many years ago in Shanghai for a foolish sum.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0143038095, Paperback)

Four mothers, four daughters, four families whose histories shift with the four winds depending on who's "saying" the stories. In 1949 four Chinese women, recent immigrants to San Francisco, begin meeting to eat dim sum, play mahjong, and talk. United in shared unspeakable loss and hope, they call themselves the Joy Luck Club. Rather than sink into tragedy, they choose to gather to raise their spirits and money. "To despair was to wish back for something already lost. Or to prolong what was already unbearable." Forty years later the stories and history continue.

With wit and sensitivity, Amy Tan examines the sometimes painful, often tender, and always deep connection between mothers and daughters. As each woman reveals her secrets, trying to unravel the truth about her life, the strings become more tangled, more entwined. Mothers boast or despair over daughters, and daughters roll their eyes even as they feel the inextricable tightening of their matriarchal ties. Tan is an astute storyteller, enticing readers to immerse themselves into these lives of complexity and mystery.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:48 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

In 1949, four Chinese women--drawn together by the shadow of their past--begin meeting in San Francisco to play mah jong, invest in stocks and "say" stories. They call their gathering the Joy Luck Club--and forge a relationship that binds them for more than three decades.… (more)

» see all 10 descriptions

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