As soon as I finished reading Shanghai Girls by Lisa See last week I was anxious to start reading the sequel Dreams of Joy. The ending of the first novel would have been frustrating if I didn't already know that there was a second book. And fortunately, it was already waiting on my night stand.
I've been hearing the buzz about Lisa See's novels (especially Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, which I hope to read very soon) for years but these are the first of her novels that I have had the privilege to read. I have definitely become a fan.
Dreams of Joy picks up right where Shanghai Girls ends. Joy, deeply upset by the family secrets and a new believer in The New China, she sets off to China. Pearl, determined to find and save her naive but determined daughter, returns to her homeland.
It's been nearly twenty years since Pearl escaped the Japanese invaders of China and immigrated to the United States of America. Since then, China has undergone vast changes. Now under the leadership of Chairman Mao Tse Dung and a Communist country, it is hardly the home she left. Yet, Pearl only wants Joy to be happy and safe and she'll try her best to assimilate in this new world. Pearl will renew old friendships and find love.
Reading of the rule of Chairman Mao, Communism and the socialistic changes in China, reminded me of the popular dystopian novels. However, this is all too real and painful. Millions suffered and starved under this rule. The important and essential family unit was broken. Pearl and Joy are determined not to have their free spirits broken. Reading of their brave struggles and harrowing trials in China, also made me even more grateful for the freedoms I enjoy in America.
Lisa See's characters are richly developed. Each has his or her own flaws and strengths. While I found myself frustrated with Joy and her decisions, I also admired her determination and personal strength. The plot moves along steadily. The history and details of Communist China are vastly important but are woven into the plot so expertly that they do not detract from the characters and the story. See's style is effortless and readable while maintaining an almost conversational tone between the main characters and the readers.
Powerful and compelling, Dreams of Joy is a novel that surpassed the first. It is a valuable and enlightening piece of literature.
I obtained a copy of Dreams of Joy through the Amazon Vine program in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own and no additional compensation was received.