[M]y parents could not ignore their invitation to join the church. Nor could they ignore the old ladies’ practical advice to improve their English through Bible study class on Wednesday nights. . . . This was how my parents met the Hsus, the Jongs, and the St. Clairs. My mother could sense that the women of these families also had unspeakable tragedies that they had left behind in China and hopes they couldn’t begin to express in their fragile English. . . . And she saw how quickly their eyes moved when she told them her idea for the Joy Luck Club.
“But I didn’t come to Kweilin to see how beautiful it was. The man who was my husband brought me and our two babies to Kweilin because he thought we would be safe. He was an officer with the Kuomintang, and after he put us down in a small room in a two-story house, he went off to the northwest, to Chungking. “We knew the Japanese were winning, even when the newspapers said they were not.”
Along the way, I saw that others had done the same, gradually given up hope. It was like a pathway inlaid with treasures that grew in value along the way. Bolts of fine fabric and books. Paintings of ancestors and carpenter tools. Until one could see cages of ducklings now quiet with thirst and, later still, silver urns lying in the road, where people had been too tired to carry them for any kind of future hope. By the time I arrived in Chungking I had lost everything except for three fancy silk dresses which I wore one on top of the other.
“But you must stay! We have something important to tell you, you’re your mother,” Auntie Ying blurts out in her too-loud voice. The others look uncomfortable, as if this were not how they intended to break some sort of bad news to me. . . . It is Auntie Ying who finally speaks. “I think your mother die with an important thought on her mind,” she says in halting English.