Suyuan Woo is a strong and willful woman who refuses to focus on her hardships. Instead, she struggles to create happiness and success where she finds it lacking. It is with this mentality that she founds the original Joy Luck Club while awaiting the Japanese invasion of China in Kweilin. Her sense of the power of will can at times cause problems, such as when Suyuan believes that her daughter Jing-mei can be a child prodigy if only the Woos can locate her talent and nurture it well enough. This leads to a deep resentment in Jing-mei. Yet it is also by virtue of Suyuan’s will that she eventually locates her long-lost twin daughters in China. Only her death prevents her from returning to them.

Suyuan shares many characteristics with her fellow mothers in the Joy Luck Club: fierce love for her daughter, often expressed as criticism; a distress at her daughter’s desire to shake off her Chinese identity in favor of an American one; and a fear that she may be alienated from her daughter either because of her own actions or because of their divergent ages and cultural upbringings.