Suyuan Woo, the founder of the Joy Luck Club, which meets monthly to play mah-jongg. In fleeing from a Japanese attack in 1944, she was forced to abandon her twin infant daughters on a road outside Kweilin. She searched for them until 1949, when she immigrated to San Francisco with her second husband. Her daughter Jing-mei was born in 1951. Suyuan secretly continued looking for her other daughters until her death at the age of seventy-two, two months before the book opens.
Jing-mei (June) Woo
Jing-mei (June) Woo, a thirty-six-year-old college dropout who writes advertising copy for a small ad agency in San Francisco. After her mother’s death, she learns that she has two half sisters still alive in China. By setting out to meet them, she begins coming to terms with her own Chinese heritage.
Lindo Jong, Suyuan’s competitive and critical best friend, who was born in 1918 in a village near Taiyuan. A marriage was arranged for her when she was two, and she joined her husband’s family when she was twelve. Eventually, she tricked her mother-in-law into dissolving the marriage. After immigrating to San Francisco, she worked in a fortune cookie factory with An-mei Hsu, who introduced her to her second husband, Tin Jong. They have three children: Winston, who is killed in a car accident at the age of sixteen, Vincent, and Waverly.
Waverly Jong, a thirty-six-year-old divorcee with a five-year-old daughter, Shoshana. Waverly is a tax attorney in San Francisco. When she was nine years old, she won national attention as a chess champion. She is insecure and fears that her mother will reject her new fiancé.
An-mei Hsu, the wife of George Hsu and mother of Janice, Ruth, Rose, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Bing. Born in 1914, she was reared by her grandmother in Ningpo until she was nine. Her mother, the widow of a respected scholar, brought disgrace on herself by becoming the third concubine of Wu Tsing, a rich merchant in Tientsin, and she eventually poisoned herself. An-mei worries that her daughter Rose will not see the choices open to her.
Rose Hsu Jordan
Rose Hsu Jordan, the third of An-mei’s seven children. When she was fourteen, she saw her four-year-old brother Bing fall off a pier at a family outing and felt responsible for his death. In college, she married Ted Jordan, a dermatologist, whom she allowed to make all the decisions in their marriage. When Ted announces that he wants a divorce after fifteen years, Rose must figure out how to stand up for what she wants.
Ying-ying St. Clair
Ying-ying St. Clair, the wife of an American man who calls her “Betty.” Born in 1914 in Wushi to a wealthy family, she was married at sixteen to a philanderer who abandoned her, causing her to induce the abortion of her first child. She married Clifford St. Clair in 1946, after the death of her first husband. They have a daughter, Lena, and a son who dies at birth.
Lena St. Clair
Lena St. Clair, a thirty-six-year-old designer at her husband’s architectural firm. After college, she married self-centered and success-oriented Harold Livotny and inspired him to start his own business. After five years of marriage, he still splits their expenses down the middle even though he makes seven times as much as she does.