Having most of her narrative told from the mothers' points of view, it is evident that Amy Tan values the mother/daughter relationship and holds strong mothers in high regard. In her novel, The Joy Luck Club, the mothers are portrayed by Tan as strong, determined, and intuitive: "they see things before they happen." However, because they are such dominant forces, there is conflict in the mother/daughter relationships albeit strong ones.
With some mothers, there is too much involvement. For instance Lindo Jong is overbearing with her prodigy daughter who is a chess player. She tells her daughter to use strategies against other players, she hovers over her, and when she wins, her mother boasts, much to Waverly's chagrin.
This involvement is sometimes due to the cultural differences between the Chinese mother and the American-born daughter. Sometimes misunderstandings develop from their linguistic differences; the mothers are not able to communicate well their good intentions for their daughters.
Nevertheless, misunderstandings do not come from just the language. There is a past that the mothers have brought to American, a past about which their daughters know nothing. Yet, the daughters are, as critic Carolyn See writes,
drowning in an American culture at the same time that they starve for a past that they can never fully understand.
Because they are caught between two worlds, some of the daughters and, later, their children, do not make wise choices in mates. For instance, Ying-Ying's daughter Lena is exploited by her husband in the name of feminism and free-thinking. He has taken her business ideas and money, but given her little in return. Harold is unethical in his relationship, and Lena's mother hopes she will recover her own spirit in order to give it to her daughter.
While there are conflicts and uncomfortable circumstances, the relationships of the Chinese-American daughters and their Chinese mothers are always loving and strong ones. In the end, it is the mothers who connect their daughters of the present with the historical past of China.