Dreams of Joy by Lisa See is the follow up to Shanghai Girls where sisters May and Pearl had fled from a war-torn China to find refuge in America. Together they raised a daughter, Joy. By the end of the novel Joy was a young university student. Here she learned about the communist movement beginning in China and the great changes it promised for its citizens. She became a political advocate and supporter of communism despite her parent's warnings. One day, Joy, over heard a conversation that exposed her family's dark secrets. Devastated by this revelation of lies about her own past she ran away to Shanghai to find her her biological father.
This is where Dreams of Joy begins. Pearl empties her life savings to chase after her daughter. Even though being back in Shanghai after so many years brings back painful memories, Pearl presses on to find her daughter. She is able to find Joy rather quickly, however, Joy has no desire to go back to America. She has visited the country side and fell in love with a young peasant. She wishes to live her life here, where she feels most comfortable; although it is a vastly different lifestyle than she is used to back home. She must work hard to aid in the communist movement she so deeply believes in.
After awhile, Joy realizes that Chairman Mao's promises for a prosperous future are impossible to achieve. At first the citizens of Green Dragon Village are well fed and happy to put in long hours in the fields to participate in the Great Leap Forward. But the plans for China, to produce huge quantities of crops that will rival the USA's exports, demand that the peasant's work harder and harder with less and less food. One particular winter was the worst. Many people in Joy's village died of starvation. Meanwhile, Pearl is living in Shanghai and trying desperately to get a travel permit to see her daughter. Pearl and other city dwellers are having a rough time too but they are kept blind to the devastation in the countryside so as China will appear to be a successful country to other nations.
Dreams of Joy has a largely political focus while still continuing See's themes of familial bond, tragedy, and love. I found this story had a slow start but it was fascinating to learn about Mao's communist regime in China and the ridiculous promises he had made. Then, once the communist theories begin to break down in practice, the story becomes completely engrossing as Joy and her family fight for their lives. The love that a mother has for her child and the things she'll do to protect them are beautifully portrayed in See's characters. Fans of Lisa See's novels like Shanghai Girls, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, and Peony in Love, will not be disappointed with Dreams of Joy. I give this book a Thumbs Up. And I truly hope that See continues writing these enchanting, thought provoking, and tragic stories.
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