The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

The Joy Luck Club is an American classic not only as a tale of immigrants but also of mothers and daughters. It features the stories of four mother-daughter pairs, all of whom have their own personalities and backstories.

Of the characters, I liked Lindo Jong the most. All of their stories were compelling, but I liked Lindo Jong’s voice the most. She had an unapologetic way of getting her point across—I laughed with her “cheap 14 karat gold” comment, but I do get her point. I found it interesting how another character observed Lindo’s daughter, Waverly, and thought something along the lines of “of course, she would know how to pick the best piece. She is, after all, Lindo’s daughter.” To be regarded in another character’s story confirms Lindo is remarkable.

To me, The Joy Luck Club is a timeless piece. Although the book was published two decades ago, the stories are still relevant and the characters relatable. It is, at the end of the day, a tale of parents and children, of how parents know more than their children think they do. Language barriers are nothing—parents have earned enough XP IRL to know what’s what. I’m glad to have read this book.

The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

Set in a post-apocalyptic world in which “the Breakdown” was caused by an incurable virus, The Girl with All the Gifts is a mix of sci fi and horror. If an incurable virus scenario sounds too real—is this where we’ll be in a few years?—I don’t fault you. This was an uncomfortable read for me, especially since we are still in the middle of a pandemic.

Despite its eeriness, the story itself is great, and it was thrilling to follow the events as they unfolded. The first part of the book progressed slowly, however, to set the stage. The book somehow reminded me of The House of the Scorpion, which had a totally different concept but also made readers ask “what makes one human, anyway?” But The Girl with All the Gifts is an entirely different story, and by the second half, I started to wonder why I thought it similar to a story about clones in the first place. The rest of the story moved quickly, and then somehow it came to an end—a good one, too. For a post-apocalyptic novel, the end did not have loose ends, and this was very satisfying to me as a reader. Everything made sense, and there is closure.

I did not, however, love all of the characters. Of the set of main characters, I only liked two of them—Melanie and Dr. Caldwell—and only for their consistency and discipline. I did not like Ms. Justineau as much. Most of the craziness (not “the Breakdown” but the actual plot) started because of her rash decisions, and her only saving grace was that she could see the humanity in some of the infected when no one else could. That was a big saving grace, but her actions were uncharacteristic of an adult that lived in that post-apocalyptic world, so I am still not the biggest fan of her.

But again, no loose ends. I am a happy camper. I can see why people like to read or watch these kinds of stories. However, I am not a fan of horror, so I likely will not be reading something similar in the future.

The First Phone Call from Heaven by Mitch Albom

Years ago, I read Mitch Albom’s The Five People You Meet in Heaven. I liked it then. There was something about his writing that brought me comfort, so when someone offered to trade The First Phone Call from Heaven with me, I thought sure, why not?

It was okay. I feel like if I’d read this around the time I read The Five People You Meet in Heaven, I’d like The First Phone Call from Heaven more. But my reading palate has changed over the years, and I no longer have the patience for stories that clearly want to enlighten. I mean… I should have expected this from Mitch Albom. I was considering dropping the book halfway, but I told myself that it was only ~300 pages (quick read), and I was curious to see if I would like this book as much as I did Five People. (I did not.)

From the characters to the plot, no one nor nothing stood out. The ending was okay, not exactly moving. Also, I could not accept the justification offered at the end of the story. Dealing with the loss of loved ones is already a very serious, personal matter, and it is not to be trifled with. While the intention behind the story seems to be in good faith, I did not appreciate it so much. Try again, maybe, or catch me another day.