The Joy Luck Club Summary

“The Joy Luck Club” is a collection of interwoven stories that show the struggles of Chinese immigrant mothers and the ways they raise their daughters in the American way of living. The plot starts with Jing-Mei, daughter of a Chinese immigrant who searches to find her twin sisters’ address in China. In her journey, she meets her mother’s friends in the Joy Luck Club who fear that she might not find the address. The book also encompasses the stories of the other three mothers and the ways they cope up with their daughters and vice-versa.

  • Feathers from a Thousand Li Away - Introduction

The story of a Chinese woman who emigrates to America to raise her daughter in a better place to make her strong. She buys a duck that became a swan. It was ceased from her at the airport and left with a feather. She plans to give it to her daughter who has exceeded her expectations but with perfect spoken English.

  • The Joy Luck Club

Jing-Mei, a college dropout, embarks on a journey to meet her half twin-sisters in China. Her father Canning Mei tells her to go to The Joy Luck Club in San Francisco where they first met in order to find the address of her sisters. There she meets criticism as a dropout and apartment evict and begins to gather information from her mother’s friends to embark on a journey.

  • Scar

An-mei, the main character whose mother is a concubine, was taken by her grandmother, Popo along with her brother. Five years later, when Popo is on her deathbed, An-mei’s mother came to visit. While her mother caressed her hair and a scar, she remembered how she got the scar from dropping boiling soup when Popo would not let her take An-mei with her. Her mother even sacrificed her flesh in order to save Popo.

  • The Red Candle

The story is narrated by Lindo Jong, a woman who was promised as a bride for Tyan-Yu at a very early age. Till they got married, she served her in-laws but soon realized that she was stronger. For testing the marriage bond, two red candles were lit to test their permanence. Lindo doused Tyan-Yu’s candle but couldn’t stop the marriage. Finally, she manages to break the marriage.

  • The Moon Lady

The story revolves around Ying-Ying, a lady who has had a life-changing Moon festival when she was four years old. She is less expressive due to her belief that reticence expresses selfishness. Amah, her nurse tells her that the Moon goddess will show-up to grant wishes given she tells none else. She falls off a boat they board, gets saved by a fisherman and never finds her family.

  • The Twenty-Six Malignant Gates

The story is a sort of moral that portrays the troubles an American raised daughter faces with her Chinese mother. The mother tries to warn her child to not get out of sight with her bicycle. She warns that the possible dangers are written in a book that she apparently fails to read. At the end, when her mother doesn’t tell her, she rushes and falls.

  • Rules of the Game

This story is about how Waverly Jong became a chess-master. From a young age she knew the ability of invisible strength. When she had her first Christmas, her brother got a chessboard and she traded her way to play chess and thus continued learning chess. Soon she became a national level champion. Her mother, Lindo took pride and Waverly protested which caused clashes between the two.

  • The Voice from the Wall

Lena, the daughter of Ying-Ying who marries an English-Irish man named Clifford acts as a translator between them. The story describes how they met, communicated despite inconveniences. They move to San Francisco where she hears a girl quarreling with her mother in the neighboring apartment. Soon, Ying-Ying becomes pregnant, delivers a dead baby and Lena discovers that she is not better than the girl next door.

  • Half and Half

This is the story of Rose, An-Mei’s daughter who plans on approaching her mother about the news of her divorce. She fears that her mother might insist to save the marriage but her husband, Ted wouldn’t agree, since she had always been inattentive towards her marriage just like back when her inattention caused her brother’s death. This shook her and her mother’s belief in faith and fate.

  • Two Kinds

Another story of Jing-mei where she narrates her hardships as a kid by Suyuan due to Lindo’s bragging. This fuels Suyuan to push her, give piano classes which she cheats and ends up ruining her chances badly in a competition. She stops playing and again gets inspired by Suyuan’s belief that she could have been great. After Suyuan dies, she continues playing a complementary piece of “Pleading Child”.

  • American Translation- Introduction

This is another sort of a fable where a mother visits her daughter’s apartment. Soon after she inspects the house, she notices that the daughter had placed a mirror at the foot of the bed, which she believed would harm her marriage luck. So, she put another mirror at the head of the bed. The mother claims to see her granddaughter in the mirror, followed by the daughter.

  • Rice Husband

Lena comes back with her set of superstitions set by her mother that she would marry a man with pits equals to the uneaten rice every-day since childhood. She takes Arnold, a bully to be her future husband and gets anorexic for him to be uglier. She somehow regrets when he dies and when Ying-Yang visits Harold’s house, she breaks his vase triggering Lena for not warning her.

  • Four Direction

This story is a continuation of “Rules of the Game” where Waverly and Lindo had a great pause. She even skipped chess and never got back her confidence. She lost her first husband due to Lindo’s criticism and is scared to introduce her boyfriend, Rich, to Lindo. In the end, after many tries, the two open up to each other about their understandings and successfully talked about Rich.

  • Without Wood

Rose finds divorce papers from her husband Ted with a check of ten-thousand-dollars which she keeps in her drawer for almost two weeks. After staying unconscious for almost three days with pills, she wakes up to An-mei’s call who inquires about her absence. Soon she is charged by her husband about signing and returning the papers in order to bring someone new. But she refuses to act accordingly.

  • Best Quality

The story narrates Suyuan cooking where she goes with Jing-mei to pick the best from the marketplace for social feasting. Then comes the cooking time which gave Jing-mei a hard situation to witness. At the feast, Jing-mei and Waverly started a cold war about their careers from a haircut compliment. This saddened Jing-mei which alerts Suyuan and she ends up giving her the “best quality”, a jade pendant.

  • Queen Mother of the Western Skies

The last section portrays the woman in the first three morals playing with her baby granddaughter. Here, she shares views about whether she would teach her to rid of her innocence or just make her understand about being hopeful like she did with her own daughter. The kid smiles and she takes it as a sign of not losing hope but innocence.

  • Magpies

The story packs in the story of An-mei’s childhood after “Scar”. She brings up the story from Rose’s divorce but soon ends up telling her own stories. She states how her mother sacrificed a piece of flesh, they leave for Wu-Tsing’s mansion. A guy named Yan Chang narrates the stories of all the wives and how her mother was trapped to get married. It ends with her mother’s death.

  • Waiting Between the Trees

Ying-Ying talks about her married life in this story. Likewise, she claims to have seen Lena’s breaking marriage already. Then she quickly switches to narrating her secret first marriage with an old man who had cheated on her all along their marriage. She claims to have two sense of the Tiger which she uses after her first marriage and plans to tell it all to Lena.

  • Double Face

It is a light story where Waverly prepared for the China trip with Lindo and Rich. Despite the excitement, Lindo ends up mocking her abilities to mix with the crowd there. Waverly takes her for a haircut where the barber compliments her by saying they are identical. This brings up her memories of naming her daughter “Waverly”. All of this apparently was done by Lindo to avoid an unlucky superstition.

  • A Pair of Tickets

The title clearly states the ending story of how Jing-mei meets her sisters in China. She and her father reach the airport in China where their relatives greet them. At night, her father tells her about the grievance that separated her sisters from Suyuan. Next, she came to know how they found the location of her sisters. The three finally meet and admire each other at Shanghai.