In 2009, Lisa See won the hearts of readers with her novel Shanghai Girls, which followed the trials and tribulations of two of her most spirited and vibrant heroines to date. Through the eyes of Pearl and May Chin, readers were transported to war-torn Shanghai and became privy to the unconscionable struggles faced by women in arranged marriages as well as Chinese immigrants in the United States.

Readers who found themselves wondering about dutiful Pearl and tempestuous May will be happy to discover that See herself agreed that one book about the Chin sisters simply wasn’t sufficient. In Dreams of Joy, See picks up the narrative in 1957 with Pearl’s 19-year-old daughter, Joy, who is living in California. Devastated by the discovery that her mother is not who Joy thought she was, Joy departs America in a haze of confusion, determined to find her real father and take up her rightful place in the New Society of Red China. When Pearl discovers Joy’s plan, she relinquishes the safety and security she has struggled for and follows Joy headlong into her past, returning to a country where both of their lives and ideals will constantly be at risk.

In Dreams of Joy, See revisits themes of friendship, romantic and familial love, identity and loss, all told through the lens of two remarkable women. In the hands of a lesser writer, Mao’s China could easily become a faded backdrop against which the personal drama of Joy and Pearl’s journey plays out, but not with See. Ever the consummate historian, See brings to life the realities of China during Mao’s Great Leap Forward, providing a fascinating and frightening new world for her readers to immerse themselves in. Succeeding as both a sequel and a stand-alone novel, Dreams of Joy is an immensely satisfying and edifying read.

 

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