There is no real main character in this story all the characters (and their stories) are equally important and equally engaging. While the book was not a page turner, I did care what happen to all the characters. It was very intriguing to know how all the mothers came to America and how their experiences shaped how the raised each of their perspective daughters. For the daughters it was more interesting to watch them try to navigate being Chinese and American. I did not get the feeling in the book that the mothers ever wanted to fit into American culture and that they did not really what their children to either. They wanted them to have Chinese values with American opportunity. While the daughters just wanted to be Chinese.
At times I felt myself siding with the daughters because to me it seemed that the mothers had no understanding of who their daughters were. It appeared that the mothers just wanted them to be obey all their wishing, sacrificing their own. I don't know if Tan did this on purpose but I is kind of confusing. Because some of the mothers hardship seems to come from just obeying and not thinking. And these women (the mothers) than expect their daughters to do the same thing.
What I really like about this book was the style that it was written in sometimes it was like reading a fairy tale (almost "Like Water for Chocolate") but more realistic. The imaginary was beautiful and caught my imagination quickly. I kept having this thought that I would love to see this as a foreign film where the whole thing has to be translated. I know that there is a movie, I even saw it years ago. But I don't remember the movie being as vivid as the book.
Another positive with this book is that with the daughters Tan was able to portray the idea of what it is like to grow up as a second generation immigrant. In this case not quite American but not quite Chinese. The daughters have to struggle with what their mother are trying to teach them about being Chinese, which often comes out like riddles, and what they think the should know about being American. The mothers and daughters struggle with this battle between being Chinese and being American. Almost like they can't do both.
One of the negatives I had was that the mothers sometimes came for as stereotypes. I think this is sometimes a problem when people of color try to write books that not only speak to their experience and culture but will also appeal to a wider audience.
Pros: Imagery, Characters, Stories, Internal Conflict
Cons: Stereotype Like Characters