The book is divided into four sections with four stories each. At the beginning of each section is a little parable told in third person. Each of the sixteen total stories, however, is told from a first-person point of view. We hear from eight women total (with the technical exception of Suyuan, who’s dead in the "present day" of the book), meaning that each woman gets two chapters to tell her life story.
Why the heck does Amy Tan want to confuse us like this? We have theories. Like…maybe the prologues are told in third person to provide some cohesion to the four mother-daughter stories. Instead of cohesion, we could also have said…universality! The third person voice is much more disembodied and removed, in contrast the first person narration, which is has a much more immediate effect. We here at Shmoop sat back in our overstuffed armchairs and theorized that Tan gives us eight first person narratives because she wants us to really feel for the mothers and the daughters. Another word for we could have used is…empathize! Tan wants us to understand where everyone is coming from so we’re not biased.