Ever since I read The Kitchen God's Wife by Amy Tan I wanted to gobble up all her books . She writes about her homeland China with a love and nostalgia that is heart tugging.
The joy luck club is her most famous book. It is a book which is for all mothers and daughters. (So says the advertising :) ) My maternal granny has 3 daughters, my mom has 2 and I have 1. So this book was literally a must read for me.
The book is about 4 mothers and their daughters . The paraphrase at the end of the book says that it like wind blowing from any of the four directions and the reader has to fathom where it is coming from. The story switches between the 4 daughters and their mothers. They all narrate it in first person so it gets really confusing as to who is who. Well it's fashionable to confuse maybe. Which reminds me of a short piece of fiction I wrote *ahem ahem* . It was nothing to be proud of at all. The feedback I got from the people I sent it across to was that it was confusing because of the usage of a lot of pronouns . I can see the joy luck club as an example which does precisely that.
Back to the book :) The book toggles between the life of the mothers in China , their re-alignment to a life in the USA, the daughters' lives and the constant shuttle cork of judgement and misunderstanding that passes between the parents and children. All the families know each other and all is not hunky dory between them either. There is the usual bad mouthing, teenage squabbles that continue into adulthood, one up man ship and the works.
The author is very vivid in her description. The struggles and strifes are very real. But the book is so confusing that after a point I stopped following what was happening to whom and concentrated on the events only. There were instances where the mothers were referring to their mothers *rolls eyes* I wish the author had been clear about the narrator at each juncture.
Another angle that did not work for me was the utter disconnect between the mothers and the daughters. The Chinese philosophy as per the book is that mothers are in the bones of the daughters . But this deep connection did not come across in the book. The mothers seemed ruthless disciplinarians and the daughters seemed to be inhabiting parallel universe totally unaware of the feelings of the mother . I have read Battle Hymn of The Tiger Mother and got the same feeling. The authoritative nature of the parents seems excessive and unjustified. I wish there is an author who could show me the reasoning behind the dictatorial nature of Chinese mothers. The distancing of the daughters (children ) seems natural.
The climax of the book is a real tear jerker. The last 30 pages especially are very emotive. They redeem the author. It made me realise that the rest of the book does warrant a thorough and more engrossed read.
Give the book a chance for a different story telling.