“A Pair of Tickets” is the last chapter in Amy Tan’s novel The Joy Luck Club. After her mother’s death, June makes her first trip to China with her father. While she has been strongly influenced by her Chinese heritage, she has developed an equally strong American identity, which extends to the use of the name June rather than her original Chinese name, Jing-mei. Along with the novelty of this initial visit to China, she is coping with the loss of her mother, Suyuan. While her father’s presence is a steadying influence, an important part of the journey pertains only to the maternal side of the family.
As Jing-mei travels from Hong Kong toward Guangzhou, she feels the impact of the Chinese landscape that shaped both her parents in different ways. The physical journey provides a parallel to the emotional journey of identity transformation that Jing-mei is experiencing. Her bonding with China is so strong that she feels that, rather than seeing it for the first time, it was something she “had seen … a long, long time ago, and had almost forgotten.”
She grew up as an only child, with her mother’s friend’s daughters filling the function of siblings. As they travel, she is also preparing herself to think of herself as actually having sisters. Suyuan’s flight from her home decades earlier began before she met and married Jing-mei’s father. Jing-mei finally learns how her mother lost her twin baby daughters during her flight and of her futile efforts to find them again. June’s journey to becoming Chinese includes recovering her lost sisters and, with them, some of her mother’s spirit.