The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan’s first novel, debuted to critical acclaim. It takes its place alongside Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior (1976) as a chronicle of a Chinese American woman’s search for and exploration of her ethnic identity. The Joy Luck Club is the best-selling, accessible account of four Chinese-born mothers and their four American-born daughters. One of the women, Suyuan Woo, has died before the story opens, but the other seven women tell their own stories from their individual points of view. Critics have noted that this approach is an unusually ambitious one. Nevertheless, the novel has reached a wide audience, especially since it was made into a feature film in 1992.
At the center of the story is Jing-mei “June” Woo, who has been asked to replace her dead mother as a member of the Joy Luck Club, a group of four women who meet for food and mah-jongg. Although Americanized and non-Chinese-speaking June is initially uncertain whether she wishes to join her mother’s friends, she discovers that these women know things about her mother’s past that she had never imagined. Her decision to become part of the Joy Luck Club culminates in a visit to China, where she meets the half sisters whom her mother was forced to abandon before she fled to the United States. The other Chinese-born women have similarly tragic stories, involving abandonment, renunciation, and sorrow in their native country. June...
(The entire section is 413 words.)