Thursday, March 15, 2012
Review: Dreams of Joy by Lisa See
Publisher: Random House
Source: Personal Copy
Pearl and May began their journey in “Shanghai Girls” as beautiful, educated and wealthy sisters. When their family was on the verge of bankruptcy their father sent them to America to marry “Gold Mountain Men.” In ‘Dreams of Joy” Pearl and May’s life journey continues, full of obstacles and tough decisions. Joy has lived for 19 years thinking that her mother is Pearl, on the contrary- her aunt is her actual mother and her father is an artist in China. She doesn’t know how she never figured this out; a confused Joy grabs her passport and decides to find her father. Feeling betrayed and angry she wants to go back to China and prove her mother and aunt wrong. Idealist Joy is wholeheartedly advocating for communism, and now is her chance to leave the US. Pearl is not long behind her, hoping to bring her daughter home.
Lisa See has an amazing ability to bring her stories to life. I really enjoyed See’s portrayal of Communist China and the misconceptions the US Media depicted. A desperate, Pearl is reluctant to return to China, knowing that communism is not what her daughter perceives, she vows to find her and bring her home. Growing up in the US, Joy never understood the hardships her family endured, she brushed off their stories. While in university she joined a group defending Mao’s actions, and allowed her mind to become deluded. She never questioned or criticized the ideology, and jumped at the change to run away. The journey of Pearl and Joy is very interesting to see their growth, and come to terms with what China has become. Nothing would prepare them for what they would face, Joy would make bad decisions and Pearl had to allow her to make those mistakes.
I highly recommend both Shanghai Girls and Dreams of Joy. I first discovered Lisa See when I picked up “Snow Flower and The Secret Fan.” I love reading about Chinese culture and history, and Lisa See immediately became one of my favorite authors. Surprisingly, “Dreams of Joy” is my first time reviewing one of her books. I would love to read the remaining titles that I haven’t read, and hopefully I will get to do that soon.
In the novels that I have read, I have come to expect a novel full of culture, hardships and strong relationships. “Dreams of Joy” is no different. Her novels carry readers into a world that is full of vivid descriptions that easily come alive. The characters are well developed and realistically damaged. It’s clear that See is an incredible researcher, and an even better writer.