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The Joy Luck Club
by Amy Tan

Category: Fiction / Literary
0 pages; ISBN: 0804106304

Rating: 9/10  (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Carolyn Howard-Johnson


Reviewed by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of “This is the Place" and "Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered"

Most everyone has heard of "The Joy Luck Club", by Amy Tan; that is rare for a literary novel. Many readers searching for their first literary experience may choose it, reasoning that it must be one of the more accessible examples of “literary” because it is so popular. I worry that if an inveterate romance, crime or science fiction reader picks up this book, she’s not going to try literary again.

If, in fact the difference between a “literary” novel and genre fiction is that literary is character-driven and not plot-driven then this book is, indeed, literary. However, many literary novels are character driven and still have plots that carry the reader in rapt attention from beginning to end.

Joy Luck will not do this. It is beautifully written. The voice is superb. There may (arguably) be no other book that gives its reader a sense of the Chinese culture in America, of the oriental mindset of many of our Asian sisters as well as this one does. It also tells stirring stories and therein lies the problem, it tells several of them.

In fact it might have been better billed as a collection of stories. There is a thread between them, but so is there in many short story collections. The thread in "Joy Luck" is not linear and it will take a conscientious reader to track the relationships between the story tellers in each chapter. If a reader unfamiliar with “literary” works should take this book as the norm, she sadly may turn away from others.

Those seeking a poignant afternoon or two of reading should consider this book. Those who might want to test literary waters might do better with a book that is more consciously aware of pacing, that leans more toward traditional Dickensonian narrative.

(Carolyn Howard-Johnson is the author of the award-winning "This is the Place." Leora Krygier, author of "First the Raven" says Howard-Johnson "paints us a picture of Utah, love, family and intolerance in beautiful strokes."
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