Canning Woo is the second husband to Suyuan Woo and the father to Jing-mei (June) Woo. Canning met Suyuan in a Chungking hospital during the war, where Suyuan was recovering from her escape from Kweilin. Their meeting came shortly after Suyuan was forced to abandon her baby daughters, Chwun Yu and Chwun Hwa. 

Although Canning exists in the background of much of the novel, he does play a large role in sparking the plot’s inciting incident. It is Canning who urges Jing-mei to replace her mother in the Joy Luck Club after Suyuan’s death. Canning’s decision to encourage Jing-mei to join, and Jing-mei’s own decision to serve as her mother’s replacement, ignites Jing-mei’s journey of contemplation and discovery. 

Throughout the novel, Canning serves as a reliable supporter of the women in his life. For Suyuan, Canning encourages and assists her in her search or her long-lost daughters. Even after Suyuan’s death, when the daughters are located, it is Canning who arranges correspondence between the sisters and the U.S.-based Woo family. In this way, Canning also acts as a supporter to Jing-mei, as he initiates Jing-mei’s initial communication with her sisters and even accompanies her on their trip to China to visit Suyuan’s lost daughters.