The Joy Luck Club

Amy Tan, Author G. P. Putnam's Sons $24.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-399-13420-3
Intensely poetic, startlingly imaginative and moving, this remarkable book will speak to many women, mothers and grown daughters, about the persistent tensions and powerful bonds between generations and cultures. The narrative voice moves among seven characters. Jing-mei ``June'' Woo recounts her first session in a San Francisco mah-jong club founded by her recently dead, spiritually vital, mother. The three remaining club members and their daughters alternate with stories of their lives, tales that are stunning, funny and heartbreaking. The mothers, all born in China, tell about grueling hardship and misery, the tyranny of family pride and the fear of losing face. The daughters try to reconcile their personalities, shaped by American standards, with seemingly irrational maternal expectations. ``My mother and I never understood each other; we translated each other's meanings. I talked to her in English, she answered back in Chinese,'' says one character. A crippling generation gap is the result: the mothers, superstitious, full of dread, always fearing bad luck, raise their daughters with hope that their lives will be better, but they also mourn the loss of a heritage their daughters cannot comprehend. Deceptively simple, yet inherently dramatic, each chapter can stand alone; yet personalities unfold and details build to deepen the impact and meaning of the whole. Thus, when infants abandoned in China in the first chapter turn up as adults in the last, their reunion with the one remaining family member is a poignant reminder of what is possible and what is not. On the order of Maxine Hong Kingston's work, but more accessible, its Oriental orientation an irresistible magnet, Tan's first novel is a major achievement. First serial to Atlantic, Ladies' Home Journal and San Francisco Focus; BOMC and QPBC featured alternates. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/22/1989
Release date: 03/01/1989
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