The Joy Luck Club
by Amy Tan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The Joy Luck Club / 0-8041-0630-4
"The Joy Luck Club" is in my opinion the best of Tan's works. While each of her stories deal with the generational gap between mothers and daughters (compounded with a culture gap and a language gap, as well!), and while each of her novels delve into cultural violence against women, "The Joy Luck Club" examines these issues most openly, most honestly, and most diversely of all her works.
The range of emotions here is wide and realistic - mothers and daughters are afflicted by a realistic mixture of love and hate, pride and disappointment, admiration and resentment. They want to be a part of this other person, but at the same time, they wish to define themselves as something definitively other and different. They push away even as they long to embrace. This is realism, this is being a mother and being a daughter. They are wise and foolish at the same time.
Much has been written about Tan and the male characters in her writing and I cannot add much here. While I will agree that Tan can go over the top and become excessive in her 'sexually violent villain' tropes, there are certainly men who can and will treat the women in their lives abhorrently. In my opinion, the worst you can say about Tan and her views on men is not that she has so many male villains, but that the "good" men she provides as counter-points seem to be frequently emotionally distant and more passive-aggressive than an actual, healthy human being. I do not believe that Tan is capable of extending the same warmth and understanding to her male characters as she extends to her female characters and this, more than the formulaic nature of her other works, seems to be the biggest flaw in this otherwise fantastic novel.
~ Ana Mardoll
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