Book Review: The Joy Luck Club – by Amy Tan

For Book Club Meeting: Saturday, 27th June 2009.
Venue: Ms. Anupama Jain’s Residence. Time: 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm

Ladies, I feel, commenting on a book is an education by itself; no seminars and conferences can make up for this type of an exploratory exercise. Friends, listening to your worthy comments, also, takes me to a study-tour, every time. Thank you.

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan, made a number of points for me. Through the features of the book, I was re-establishing my own identity; the scenes were truly remarkable in the way that amongst a lot of them I saw myself as: having been a daughter, and now being a mother. Making a point, the wife-characters whistle past, because the book’s chief arteries flow in the relationships between daughters and mothers… their love… their loyalty… and within all this – the strife, and the head-on-collision with the differing manners of time and temperaments. I could see the scenes constructing me, and that too, without any Tan knowing who I am and who I have been!

After recognizing all this, the question of the English language used by the Chinese mothers also claimed me, wholly. I can in exactness imagine my own mother’s obvious incapacity to fulfill the true meaning of her thoughts: whenever she was switching from the speech of Punjabi to English. By referring to this, I will love to narrate an incident, as a sample, later. First, let me quote the author’s sense on this subject of languages.

Connecting the realm of the story, Tan writes on Page 305: ‘Lately, I’ve been giving more thought to the kind of English my mother speaks. Like others, I have described it to people as ‘broken’ or ‘fractured’ English. But I wince when I say that. It has always bothered me that I can think of no other way to describe it other than ‘broken’, as if it were damaged and needed to be fixed, as if it lacked a certain wholeness and soundness’.

To Illustrate Tan’s point further, permit me to take you back to page 179. To drive the meaning, the gist in my own words is this: Waverly’s mother (the-all-Chinese) is having a conversation with Rich, (the-all-American) fiancé of her daughter Waverly. Rich has these freckles on his very pale skin etc. etc…

Now, I am quoting the passage on Page 179:

Waverly’s mother says to her future son-in-law, “It is too hot in the summer. You will grow more spots and your whole face will become red”. And Rich grins, gestures his thumb towards his mother-in-law and says to Waverley, “Can you believe what comes out of her mouth?”

By this, the future son-in-law, Rich was talking about the hitting manner of speech of his future mother-in-law. Ladies! You must hear what came out of my mother’s mouth!

Here’s the narration:


I learned to love my mother in many ways. One was with the intention of repairing her language of ‘broken’ English. To a formal inspection of proper English manners, I was updating her on the positive usage of clear-cut words and phrases, like: please; may I; thank you; thank you very much; with pleasure. To her great delight and my own satisfaction, these lessons on etiquette were taking place while we were sojourning in London, together. Motivated by the desire to show her quick grasp to her own self and me, I heard her at the chemist’s shop, revalidating all she had learnt. Loud and declarative, my mother announced to the young English man at the counter, “Please may I thank you, thank you very much, with pleasure. Now I demand one comb, one tooth-brush, one orange juice with no sugar, at once, at once, most badly”. Accelerating those ‘English-thoughts’ of hers, I saw her hand stay wide awake with a zooming speed and motion while she spoke. It seemed her arm was being driven by some electric power. When we stepped out of the shop, she wanted a report on her performance. Before I could return to her, with a show of utter determination, my mother said to me, “I knew, I was not one bit wrong with the words. But, why was that lad looking, as if, I’d scared him?”

Geeta Chhabra

Geeta Chhabra Comment Form
Form a link. Comment inside the box below. Your views will be published in a coming edition.