By Lisa See
Published May 31, 2011

Lisa See continues the story of sisters Pearl and May from SHANGHAI GIRLS, and Pearl’s strong-willed nineteen-year-old daughter, Joy.

Reeling from newly uncovered family secrets, and anger at her mother and aunt for keeping them from her, Joy runs away to Shanghai in early 1957 to find her birth father—the artist Z.G. Li, with whom both May and Pearl were once in love. Dazzled by him, and blinded by idealism and defiance, Joy throws herself into the New Society of Red China, heedless of the dangers in the communist regime.

Devastated by Joy’s flight and terrified for her safety, Pearl is determined to save her daughter, no matter the personal cost. From the crowded city to remote villages, Pearl confronts old demons and almost insurmountable challenges as she follows Joy, hoping for reconciliation. Yet even as Joy’s and Pearl’s separate journeys converge, one of the most tragic episodes in China’s history threatens their very lives.

As soon as I found out I was going to be reviewing DREAMS OF JOY, I ran right out and bought SHANGHAI GIRLS.  It had been on my to-read list anyway.  I absolutely loved SHANGHAI GIRLS and immediately jumped right into DREAMS OF JOY.  I was so happy that it picked right up where SHANGHAI GIRLS left off.  Even though you could read DREAMS OF JOY on its own, I think you would understand more of the dynamics of the relationships and history if you read SHANGHAI GIRLS first.  I appreciated that a lot of the detailed history and relationships weren’t repeated in DREAMS OF JOY and instead stayed focused on the dynamics of Joy and Pearl’s story.

Every Lisa See book draws me in quickly and helps me learn more about China’s history and culture.  I think this one was equally if not more riviting than SNOW FLOWER AND THE SECRET FAN.  DREAMS OF JOY is set during China’s Great Leap Forward.  There was much about Mao Tse-Tung’s regime that I did not know.  I was also not aware of the devasation and the degree of death and destruction that the people of China suffered during his reign.  It was heartbreaking and frustrating to read how the people of China were treated by him and his leaders. 

There are parts of the story that were difficult to stomach and horrifying to imagine.  But, knowing the extensive research Lisa See does for her novels, I am sickened to know these were true events.  What was happening to children and families was tough to bear as a reader, knowing it really wasn’t that long ago that these events occurred.  There are places where a strong stomach and a box of kleenex are necessary.

The story is told from the perspective of Joy, the daughter and Pearl, the mother.  The chapters flip flop between them and it is easy to follow.  You want to keep reading and know what is happening to Pearl after you just read about Joy.  See’s characters are also so well developed and real that you can’t stop thinking of them once the book is finished. 

Reading this book will make you appreciate your freedom, reach out to your mother/daughter, and realize that you can perservere through difficult situations.  DREAMS OF JOY would also be an excellent choice for book clubs.  I give this 5 out of 5 stars. 
Also, if you are a fan of Lisa See and her book SNOW FLOWER AND THE SECRET FAN, it will arrive in theaters on July 15.  Check out your local theaters for schedules and times!  For more information on Lisa See check out her website at http://www.lisasee.com/.

Thanks to LibraryThing for sending me a copy of this book for review.  This review is my honest opinion.  I wouldn’t review anything that wouldn’t benefit me or my family.  I received no other compensation for this review.

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  1. Moxie on June 15, 2011 at 2:20 pm

    I now have to get the book after reading your review. Thank you for posting this!! 🙂

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