Classics Club: The Joy Luck Club


  • Author: Amy Tan

I bought The Joy Luck Club years ago at a used bookstore, but it took joining the Classics Club for me to finally get around to reading it.  Doing a read-along certainly didn’t hurt either.

I think this book is perfect for read-alongs, book clubs, and college courses because it should be read a little chunk at a time and discussed in detail.  There are so many emotions and ideas to process throughout the stories of the four mothers and daughters that I think trying to read the book quickly wouldn’t allow the time and space needed to dig in deep.  I also think anyone reading this book should be prepared to want to learn more about China’s history and culture.  What little I already knew was not enough, and The Joy Luck Club prodded me to go in search of that knowledge.

What makes this book one of the top pieces of literary fiction is even when you think Chinese culture is so very different that no one but the Chinese could possibly understand, the struggles that occur between mothers and daughters is relatable no matter where you come from in the world.  Am I an expert on Chinese familial relationships?  Not a chance.  Did I see my mother and myself in those pages?  All the time.  Amy Tan somehow combines uncomfortable unfamiliarity with the feeling of looking in a mirror.  She even has the characters experience this same interchange of emotions as they find themselves realizing how different and yet how similar they are to each other.  She also turns myth into reality and vice versa.  Somehow she manages all this within the structure of a mahjong game.  At the end of every chapter, I would pause for a moment to let what I had read sink in and allow myself to feel astounded.  For once, I can safely say that this is a book everyone should read.

4 thoughts on “Classics Club: The Joy Luck Club

  1. I read several of Tan’s books back to back about twenty years ago in preparation for my first trip (but I hope not my last) to China. I loved her mix of new and old, myth and fact, ying and yang. The mother/daughter relationship dominates her stories, but I love how she describes the complicated feelings they all have for their mother country from the other side of the world.

    Must be time for a reread 🙂

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  2. Oh, I’ve had this book on my shelf for years, too, already. Too bad I missed the read-along. Like you, I always like how Tan makes something that might be foreign to you (like Chinese history and culture) easily accessible.

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