As you readers know, I love, love, love Lisa See’s books and her latest, “Dreams of Joy”, is a wonderful addition to her novels. Written as a sequel to “Shanghai Girls”, “Dreams of Joy” takes up where that story left off and follows Joy, Pearl, and May as they struggle to maintain their relationships amidst the changing political climate of China.
(May Contain Spoilers!) At the start of the book, Joy – May’s nineteen-year-old daughter – learns that May is her biological mother (not her aunt as she had always thought) and that Pearl is actually her aunt. Sam, the only father she has known, has recently committed suicide (in part due to allegations he suffered from the government) and Joy decides to leave her family and return to China (now strictly under Communist regime) to find and get to know her biological father, the artist Z.G. Joy’s journey is not an easy one, and she soon finds herself out in the countryside with her father, while he teaches art to peasants as part of his assignment. Pearl, meanwhile, takes the first opportunity to go to China to find Joy. While this story feels in part like an adventure as Pearl searches for Joy and then the group tries to get out of China, it really is a story of relationships – and specifically of the love between women – as mother/daughter and sister/sister – and also of the amazing tenacity and strength that women have.
I just loved this book. I found all the characters engaging and interesting, from the main characters of Pearl and Joy, to the peasants in the community where they lived. I always find it interesting to read of historical periods, and I really didn’t know too much about what daily life was like in China during these years of Mao’s regime. Ms. See portrays the life of the commoner, and the horrific famine that existed, with stark and deliberate detail. Her scenes of devastation are painted so vividly that they stay with you after you are done reading. Most of all, though, I love a story where intelligence and strength combine to help a person through. Joy changed so much throughout the story, but Pearl was the beacon of strength and maternal love throughout. By the end, both women had learned more about themselves and their bond with each other and to May. Joy’s new baby daughter completes the circle, yet continues it.
I know some people may find the ending a bit incredible. But to me, it ended just as I hoped. In my opinion, life doesn’t always give us happy endings, so I look for them in books.
If you are a fan of Lisa See, and especially if you’ve read “Shanghai Girls”, then don’t miss this latest novel!
(my copy was pre-ordered for my Kindle)
Here’s a quickie book trailer from You Tube: