Wednesday, August 15, 2012

review: The Joy Luck Club

About a month ago, I reviewed another Amy Tan book that I quite loved. Not too long after that I finally got my hands on a copy of the Joy Luck Club which was what I'd orginally intended to read.

Tan has a very definite writing style, and it's one that resonates with me. I like the way she structures her stories, the way she lets her characters develop and grow. At the same time she's also able to give each of her characters a distinct voice which adds amazing richness to her writing. One thing that these books together with the George RR Martin ones I've been reading has reminded me of is that I love stories with multiple (and sometimes competing) protagonists. I like getting involved in a variety of characters.

The Joy Luck Club was a much easier read than the Bonesetter's Daughter, and was paced faster. I think it was also shorter, but that's neither here nor there. It takes us into the lives of four Chinese families living in San Fransisco and probes the relationships between the mothers and the daughters, and the disconnect of the two different worlds they have grown up in (China and America).

I think there were probably about a half dozen "a ha" moments for me in this book, where a passage really seemed to get at the depth of human experience, of how we as women relate to the generations ahead of and behind us, and how even if we think we understand people we may not really - but sometimes the people who we think we understand the least are also the people who we really understand the best. One storyline in particular, where a daughter constantly feels like her mom is judging her and her choices but it seems that the daughter may be drawing these out of her own misgivings or fears, strikes a cord with me. We can't always be aware of the intentions behind another's actions or words, and we can't assume that we know what these intentions are.

I wasn't quite as impressed with this book as I wanted to be, though. I think I'd hoped for something longer, more in depth and maybe with a narrower focus; that expecation came from the Bonesetter's Daughter, which was very heavily focused on two characters in particular. The Joy Luck Club had a broader focus; it explored a very small community, and its history and the way each person fit into that community. It was a broader exploration of mothers and daughters than what the Bonesetter's Daughter focused on. Sociology instead of psychology, if you will.

Even though it wasn't quite what I expected I flew through this book. Could not put it down, would grab it even if I only had 30 seconds to devote to reading. (Seriously.)

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