Book Review: The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan.

the-joy-luck-club-amy-tan-goodreadsNo. of pages: 332 pages

Publisher: Ballantine Books

Published Date: 30 April 1990

Author: Amy Tan

Setting: China and California, United States

Synopsis

Four mothers, four daughters, four families whose histories shift with the four winds depending on who’s “saying” the stories. In 1949 four Chinese women, recent immigrants to San Francisco, begin meeting to eat dim sum, play mahjong, and talk. United in shared unspeakable loss and hope, they call themselves the Joy Luck Club. Rather than sink into tragedy, they choose to gather to raise their spirits and money. “To despair was to wish back for something already lost. Or to prolong what was already unbearable.” Forty years later the stories and history continue.

With wit and sensitivity, Amy Tan examines the sometimes painful, often tender, and always deep connection between mothers and daughters. As each woman reveals her secrets, trying to unravel the truth about her life, the strings become more tangled, more entwined. Mothers boast or despair over daughters, and daughters roll their eyes even as they feel the inextricable tightening of their matriarchal ties. Tan is an astute storyteller, enticing readers to immerse themselves into these lives of complexity and mystery.

Reader’s Verdict

This book reminds me so much of the culture and routines among the Chinese folk and how true it is from generation to generation. Mothers expect their offspring to perform and emerge as successful individuals much to the chagrin of their daughters. Mothers teach and guide their children on how to behave and how to carry themselves even if the foreign culture is strong and threatens to drive a wedge between parent and child.

It was a conundrum, really. It was a difficult book to read because there was so much Chinese in the story that it reminded me so much of myself; at the same time, it was difficult to put down because I kept wanting to know what happens at the end of each chapter. I desperately wanted to know who died, who left, who came and who went. The word kiasu comes to mind.

The story told of a moving and electric exploration of two warring cultures: American and Chinese, with a widespread focus on the lives of four Chinese women who moved to San Francisco in their youth and their very-American 30-ish daughters. The tension of feelings and emotions were strong among these older women and their daughters as both parties struggled to make themselves understand one another. The generation gap was as wide as the ocean but that didn’t stop the mothers from trying, time and time again, to make their daughters see the truths of the old ways of living.

Yet neither side is capable of believing how far and how real these truths are. The four mothers feel that their children could do better and be better. The four daughters feel that their mothers are so stuck in their old ways, that things aren’t always in black and white (sometimes there are 16 million colours too, just like your smartphone screen).

I hate to admit it but the book rings all too true and reminds me a lot of my childhood years. Since when do we ever listen to our parents because they know they’re right? We only rebel because we think we know better. What happens when we don’t? If our parents didn’t force us to do well, we blame them for it. If they forced us to study harder, we blame them for making us suffer.

So how?

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Book Review: The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick.

the-silver-linings-playbook-matthew-quick-goodreads

No. of pages: 289 pages

Publisher: Sarah Crichton Books

Publication Date: 16 October 2012

Setting: Collingswood, New Jersey (United States)

Author: Matthew Quick

Goodreads

Meet Pat. Pat has a theory: his life is a movie produced by God. And his God-given mission is to become physically fit and emotionally literate, whereupon God will ensure a happy ending for him—the return of his estranged wife, Nikki. (It might not come as a surprise to learn that Pat has spent time in a mental health facility.) The problem is, Pat’s now home, and everything feels off. No one will talk to him about Nikki; his beloved Philadelphia Eagles keep losing; he’s being pursued by the deeply odd Tiffany; his new therapist seems to recommend adultery as a form of therapy.

Pat knows that life doesn’t always go according to plan, but he is determined to get his life back on track. And avoid being hunted by Kenny G!

In this enchanting novel, Matthew Quick takes us inside Pat’s mind, showing us the world from his distorted yet endearing perspective. As the award-winning novelist Justin Cronin put it: “Tender, soulful, hilarious, and true, The Silver Linings Playbook is a wonderful debut.”

Reader’s Verdict

I honestly didn’t know what to think about or expect from the book. I bought it on a whim and even downloaded the movie because Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence are in it. I have yet to watch the movie but at least I’ve read the book. Now I can watch it and then compare both after that.

I read the book with little to zero expectations as I’ve no idea if it would be good or not. In the first few chapters, it was obvious that Pat Peoples was sent to a place for rehabilitation after committing a crime. A crime that the reader wouldn’t know about until a couple of chapters before the book ends. From here, you will learn that Pat is obviously clinging to a reality that didn’t exist yet he desperately wanted it anyway, and strangely, the people surrounding him clearly didn’t think if his ultimate goal of getting Nikki back was possible or ideal for him. Early on, Pat made a pact with himself that he will have to improve himself for Nikki, from improving his fitness and literacy.

Yet, he never once thought that perhaps he doesn’t or shouldn’t have to change everything about his personality to make this woman happy. Maybe in his traumatised mind, he wasn’t aware of it but to a reader, he really doesn’t have to do anything. Improving your attitude towards your wife, always treating your wife with respect, yes and yes. But feeling as though you need to read more American literature so that your wife and her snotty friends would stop laughing at you, no, I don’t think he needed to do anything about that.

I found myself wondering throughout the book, what was the traumatic event that transformed Pat him into such a sad man. When I learnt what he had done to deserve such punishment, I felt even worse for him. Imagine finding your spouse in the shower with another man or woman. Oh, I would lose it too. Would you?

Reading this book was a risk but I’m glad the risk paid off. I found that I could relate to the book and its characters, not so much that I had almost killed someone but because there were areas in the story that spoke volumes to me. It took me 10 days to finish reading it which in itself is a big achievement. Usually, it would take me 2 weeks to a month but I could hardly put this one down. I quite enjoyed this quirky novel despite Tiffany’s stalker behaviour and Pat’s father’s childish way of treating his family and his anger management issues.

In short, I was content and pleased with the ending. His wife may have moved on but in the end, he still got his silver lining and closure to his manic episode.