Illustration of the profiles of a young woman and an older woman facting away from each other

The Joy Luck Club

by Amy Tan

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A Pair of Tickets Summary

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Jing-mei Woo recalls her mother telling her that she is Chinese and that there is no help for it. Now Jing-mei has traveled to China with her father, Canning Woo. They are traveling to Guangzhou to see his family and then on to Shanghai to meet Jing-mei’s sisters.

Jing-mei has always pictured her sisters as babies or little girls. The letter announcing that they are alive came only after her mother’s death. Auntie Lindo answered the letter in her mother’s voice, but Jing-mei became upset because her sisters would think that their mother was coming. Auntie Lindo wrote another letter with the news of Suyuan’s death.

Now Jing-mei and her father leave the train in Guangzhou. Jing-mei is beginning to feel Chinese even though she is taller than most of the people around her. She remembers her mother telling her about how the family’s home was destroyed and everyone killed in the war and how she and Jing-mei were the only ones left.

Canning reunites with his aunt, and he and Jing-mei meet her family. They all ride into the city, where they stay at the hotel together to talk and tell stories and catch up. Jing-mei is somewhat overwhelmed by the experience as the whole family crowds into the elevator, orders American food for dinner, and spends time together. She thinks about how many questions she never asked her mother.

In the middle of the night, Jing-mei awakens to hear her father and his aunt still talking. Canning is telling his aunt about Suyuan’s experience in Kweilin during the war and how she fled the Japanese with her two babies. Jing-mei asks what the girls’ names are and what they mean. They are Chwun Yu and Chwun Hwa, her father says, Spring Rain and Spring Flower. Her mother’s name means “Long-Cherished Wish.” Jing-mei’s name means that she is the youngest sister, the essence of the other two. Jing-mei asks her father to tell her the whole story.

Suyuan left Kweilin with money and jewelry in her dress and her babies in slings. She was carrying food and other possessions, but she had to drop them as she walked. Finally, she was too ill to go any farther. She begged people to take her babies, but no one would. Eventually, she tucked the money and jewelry along with some pictures and a note into the babies’ shirts and walked on by herself. The next thing she remembered was being in the back of a truck with other sick people. She had lost everything. Canning met her at the hospital.

The babies were picked up and raised by a peasant couple who loved the girls dearly. After the husband died, the wife, Mei Ching, told the girls who they were and tried to find the girls’ family, but there was no one left.

Canning thought that his wife had forgotten the girls when they came to America, but Suyuan kept looking. A schoolmate finally spotted the twins and recognized them because they looked like their mother. They had honored their parents all these years.

Jing-mei is exhausted when they get to the airport and say goodbye to the family. In Shanghai, she finally meets her sisters, and they laugh and cry together as they remember their mother. They all look like her, as they can see well when they view a Polaroid of the three of them together.

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