The Joy Luck Club Book Summary
Chapter One: The Beauty of Beginnings
We learn that Jing-Mei Woo’s mother, Suyuan, passed away two months ago. She was a part of the Joy Luck Club in San Francisco since 1949. The Joy Luck Club was a weekly mahjong party where they would play mahjong while exchanging stories. Her father, Canning, asked her to take her mother’s place at the weekly meetings. Jing-Mei explains that her mother’s stories were always the same except for the endings that always changed. Her mother finally told her the story’s real ending—the story about how she came to leave the original Joy Luck Club in Kweilin. Her mother had been previously married and had two children. In China, war was breaking out and in an effort to escape she fled to Chungking. On the journey we learn that her mother left several items behind, including Jing Mei’s half sisters. The Joy Luck members want Jing-Mei to travel to China and tell her sisters about their mothers’ life. They give her $1,200 for the trip. Jing-Mei doesn’t know if she knew her mother well enough to tell her half sisters her story. Chapter Two: It’s a Slow Process
An-Mei Hsu’s mother was the concubine of a man named Wu-Tsing when she was four. Her and her brother lived with their grandmother, also known as Popo. Their Popo didn’t let them speak of their mother, eventually she entirely forgot her mother. When Popo became terminally ill, her mother visited her for the first time in five years. Her mother touched a scar on her neck and suddenly An-Mei remembered her earlier childhood. She remembers that she got the scar when her mother came back for her and in the process a bowl of boiling soup spilled on her. While Popo was on her death bed An-Mei’s mother cut a piece of her own flesh out of arm into a soup for Popo. Ancient tradition says that this will cure a dying family member and a sign of deep respect.
Chapter Three: Never Meant to Be
In this chapter we get a personal account from Lindo Jong about and her mothers relationship. At the age of two Lindo was promised a hand in marriage to Huang Tyan-yu. In an order to get used to the idea that Lindo would not always be hers, her mother referred to her as the daughter of Tyan-yus’ mother, Huang Taitai. To Lindo, Taitai felt more like a mother than her very own. Lindo married Huang when she was 16. Lindo didn’t want to get married because she didn’t want to pursue someone else’s happiness. She considered committing suicide but then realized she was strong. As a wedding ritual a candle was lit and if it stayed lit the whole day and night then the marriage was sealed. A servant was sent to watch over it, but left for a moment and Lindo blew it out. The next day the servant announced that it was still burning, but Lindo and Tyan-yu knew it had gone out and the servant simply, didn’t want to be punished. Tyan-yu forced Lindo to sleep on the sofa, when Taitai found out; Tyan-yu said it was Lindo’s fault. Unable to become pregnant, the family annulled the marriage and Lindo immigrated to America. Chapter Four: My Own Little Shooting Star
In this chapter Ying-ying St. Clair explains the Moon Festival she attended when she was four years old. She has remained quiet for most of her life because she fears that she will voice her selfish desires. At the moon festival Ying-ying meets the Moon Lady who tells her that it is wrong for a woman to voice her own needs and that a girl can never ask, only listen. This is how Ying-ying lived her life from then on out. The Moon Festival feast was held on a lake, the chef gutted the fish and it got all over Ying-yings’ dress. Amah saw her and stripped off her bloddy clothes and left her alone. Firecrackers began to go off and Ying-ying got scared and fell overboard. A fisherman caught her in his net and tried to help her find her family. He took her ashore and she was still alone. She wished to the Moon Lady that she would be found. Chapter Five: Invisible Strength
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