Joy Luck Club Study Guide

Joy Luck Club By Amy Tan

The Joy Luck Club is a collection of vignettes modeled like a game of Mahjongg (four sections of four chapters each) that combine in a novel. The linking thread of the book is the Joy Luck Club, a group of three Chinese immigrant mothers and their four daughters (one has a mother who would complete the set, but she died before the story begins) who band together around Mahjongg and food to share their stories with one another.

The story begins as Jing-Mei takes her mother's place at the table of the Joy Luck Club with her mother's friends, Lindo, Ying-ying, and An-mei, who inform her that just before he died, her mother found Jing-Mei's lost sisters - and she should travel to China to find them and share her mother's story. Jing-Mei is concerned that she won't be able to do that, and each of the other three mothers is concerned that their own daughters would fail to tell their stories as well.

In the first four sections of the book, each mother tells of their relationships with their daughters, and worries that their own daughters' memories won't have the same clarity. In the second section, the daughters all tell the same story, and their ability leaves their mothers' fears unfounded.

The third section begins the tales of each daughter's adult life, in which they discard their mothers' experiences as outmoded while simultaneously and ironically falling back on their mothers for help in adapting to the adult Western world.

The final sections are again told by the mothers, as they try desperately to offer their daughters the assistance they seek, in turn learning much about themselves and their relationship with their daughters in the process.

Jing-Mei has to tell her mother's side of the stories, and does so in her mother's voice very accurately, proving her own fears unfounded, and she leaves to find her siblings confident in her ability to tell her mother's story well.

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