Amy Tan is a detailed and thorough writer whose works I have enjoyed. Her novels are lengthy, well-researched as she takes us into different historic eras of China. I can safely label her books as sagas and we have enough time with her characters to feel as if we know them.
Most modern-day writers only wish that they could sit down and turn out works of this caliber. Most of us are writing between jobs and fulfilling multiple daily demands in this high-paced society. So, to write a book with over 600 pages is masterful in itself.
I read The Joy Luck Club in the early 90’s and I actually did a speed walk over to the University of Chicago when I heard that she would be speaking there. I try to see every reputable writer to hear what they have to say and share to hopefully have the muses grace me as well.
The Joy Luck Club is a group of four Chinese immigrant mothers and their American–born daughters. The mothers have bonded in an effort to heal from the horrors of what they experienced in China. Tan describes some of the things that the women had to endure in their former lives.
The mothers want their girls or daughters to be stronger and they want them to understand how vulnerable and powerless they were in those situations. The Chinese immigrant mothers want their girls to embrace their independence and to take advantage of the freedoms that their American births have afforded them.
One mother had to leave her twins behind under a tree during a war or conflict and another had to deal with her husband bringing his mistress into their home. The movie,The Joy Luck Club, was one of the few that truly celebrated the writer’s message. I am not sure if Ms. Tan would agree, but I enjoyed both the book and the film. I think that all mothers and daughters should read and discuss the book and see the movie. Daughters need to be able to see their mothers as young women filled with dreams before they became mothers to better understand them.
I also enjoyed her book, The Hundred Secret Senses. In this novel, two sisters meet when Kwan, Olivia’s half- sister comes from China to live with her in the States. Kwan is filled with superstitious stories, but as Olivia tells the story, they learn each other’s languages. Kwan ends up playing a major role in helping Olivia reconcile with her husband.
I grew up reading stories by Eleanor Lattimore who wrote stories about China. She was an American who lived in China as a child while her father taught at one of the university. She wrote several children’s books and they kept me entertained as a child. Now, I have Amy Tan to keep me steeped in reading about different aspects of the Chinese culture.
I recently read her book, Valley of Amazement. It was about Violet, a Eurasian girl whose American-born mother ran a courtesan house for the very wealthy men in Shanghai. The mother returned to America and was supposed to meet her daughter at the train; but Violet is tricked, sold and is caught up in the life as a courtesan. Her mother heard that she had died and never came back to look for her.
The readers will find themselves watching, hoping and praying for Violet who was such a privileged child. She was a young teen when the entrapment began and she remains in that lifestyle for the majority of her life.
So much is learned about what the women were experiencing during this 20th century piece as we hope that the nightmare will end for Violet and that she will be set free.
Amy Tan has a fine hand for writing and she truly does her homework on certain eras of Chinese history. Her writings prove that reading and writing go hand in hand. She said, “Writing is an extreme privilege but it’s also a gift. It’s a gift to yourself and it’s a gift of giving a story to someone.”
Kudos to Ms. Tan for sharing her gift with me!
Lynn March 8, 2015