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Thursday, September 22, 2011

"Dreams of Joy"

by Lisa See, Shanghai Girls #2, AF, 2011, 354p, rating=4

Nineteen-year-old Joy Louie has run away from her home in 1950s America to start a new life in China. Idealistic and unafraid, she believes that Chairman Mao is on the side of the people, despite what her family keeps telling her. How can she trust them, when she has just learned that her parents have lied to her for her whole life, that her mother Pearl is really her aunt and that her real father is a famous artist who has been living in China all these years? Joy arrives in Green Dragon Village, where families live in crowded, windowless huts and eke out a meagre existence from the red soil. And where a handsome young comrade catches her eye...Meanwhile, Pearl returns to China to bring her daughter home - if she can. For Mao has launched his Great Leap Forward, and each passing season brings ever greater hardship to cities and rural communes alike. Joy must rely on her skill as a painter and Pearl must use her contacts from her decadent childhood in 1930s Shanghai to find a way to safety, and a chance of joy for them both. Haunting, passionate and heartbreakingly real, this is the unforgettable new novel by the internationally acclaimed Lisa See.  (Goodreads)

This sequel to Shanghai Girls did not disappoint!  I was captivated and taken back to Red China, thanks to Joy.  Remember Joy?  She's 19 years old now and just discovered that her aunt is actually her birth mother and the person she's been calling Mom is actually her aunt.  Full of guilt and idealism, she runs off to China to find her biological father and possibly a new home.  Of course, Pearl as a loving and concerned mother takes off after her.  What they find there is a communist China that leaves little room to escape.

The story telling was so vivid that I felt the hardships and got a glimpse of what it may have been like living in a socialist country at that time.  I don't like it!  I've been spoiled too much in this wonderful neck of the woods and enjoy the freedom it allows me.  Hence, the arduous tribulations that the main characters suffered made for a humbling experience for this reader. 

The bond between sisters and mother and daughter continued to be a strength in this novel.  Sisters, May and Pearl, maintained durability in each other.  The relationship between mother-daughter that was portrayed here was compelling and heartwarming ... definitely drawn from real life.  Exquisite!!

As with the first installment, this book dealt with difficult adult experiences.  But the journey to finding joy essentially overshadows the darkness.  So passionately written that I found myself in the shoes of May, Pearl, and Joy ...tired, heartbroken, and enlightened.

My quote-ables:
"As she spoke, I wanted to cry, because sometimes it's just so damn hard to be a mother.  We have to wait and wait and wait for our children to open their hearts to us.  And if that doesn't work, we have to bide our time and look for the moment of weakness when we can sneak back into their lives and they will see us and remember us for the people who love them unconditionally." pg 155


  1. I'd heard the sequal was really good, unlike Shanghai Girls and its mixed reviews. Thanks for the great review!

  2. So happy to hear this is good. I loved Shanghai Girls. Great review!

  3. Thanks Kittie and Annette. I did enjoy this. :)


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