More than any of the other Joy Luck Club women, An-mei believes that your mother is "in your bones." She views the mother-daughter relationship as extremely corporeal (that basically means centered on the body), as might be expected from a woman who watched her mother carve out a chunk of flesh in an effort to save her grandmother. Later, An-mei’s mother commits suicide in order to give her daughter a better life.
The first piece of gossip we hear about An-mei is that she lacks wood in her character, meaning that she’s very open to suggestion, basically a serious pushover with sweet intentions. But that doesn’t mean that she’s all soft. One of An-mei’s strongest personality traits is her belief in her nengkan – her personal ability to accomplish anything she sets her mind to. An-mei applies her nengkan to cooking, to starting a life in America and raising seven children there, and eventually to searching for her drowned son, Bing.
In the case of Bing, An-mei’s nengkan fails her. She cannot find Bing with her own search and rescue abilities, by appealing to God, or by begging the Coiling Dragon. An-mei might have been naïve to ever think she could get her drowned son back, but An-mei is a determined woman and doesn’t lose Bing for lack of trying. Even in a hopeless situation, An-mei believes in trying, in this case, because her son was worth it to her.
When An-mei was a little girl, she learned from her repressed and unhappy mother that you must swallow your tears. In China, An-mei and her mother lived in a society where they couldn’t stand up for themselves and had to suffer in silence. One of An-mei’s wishes for her own daughter, Rose, is that Rose will be able to stand up for herself, something which An-mei’s mother was unable to do, and therefore lived a life of terrible suffering. An-mei is extremely worried about her daughter, who, despite being in America, seems unable to speak up for herself and lets life happen to her. An-mei also wants Rose to strive in her life, not because trying in a hopeless situation will change anything (like it didn’t change the fact that Bing died), but because Rose’s life is worth fighting for.An-mei Hsu Timeline