Books, Dark, Historical Fiction, Lisa See

Dreams of Joy by Lisa See: Book Review

“As she spoke, I wanted to cry, because sometimes it’s just so damn hard to be a mother. We have to wait and wait and wait for our children to open their hearts to us. And if that doesn’t work, we have to bide our time and look for the moment of weakness when we can sneak back into their lives and they will see us and remember us for the people who love them unconditionally.”

Lisa See is one of my favorite author’s and every time I see she has a new book published, I have to buy it. I know that Dreams of Joy came out a while ago, but I finally managed to read it. I read Shanghai Girls and I was left with wanting more because of the tragic ending. I am glad to have read the sequel and it did not disappoint. The novel is told in two perspectives Pearl (protagonist of Shanghai Girls) and Joy, her daughter. May I say, that I enjoyed this novel so much. Let’s get on with the review!

Characters: I found Joy to be very annoying in the beginning of the novel, she was a young adult who was ignorant of what was really happening in China during Mao’s rule. It felt as if she were brainwashed into believing that communism was for the greater good. She was very immature and stubborn with her mother and her biological father in the novel, but she redeems herself when she becomes a wife. Joy’s struggles as an outsider in a small village was so heartbreaking. She tried her best to fit in with the villagers, but she was more American than Chinese. She believed that she had friends in Green Dragon Village, but villagers couldn’t be trusted. I love how she realizes that communism was not as great as she imagined it to be. She suffered many cruelties from her husband and his family, but continues to be brave and face any danger in order to survive. I loved how much she changes in the novel. Pearl, I loved her in Shanghai Girls, and she changed as well. I was heartbroken that she lost Sam (he died in the previous book) and Joy in China. Pearl stays strong and never loses hope of bringing Joy back to America. I was glad that she and her sister May reconciled for the better at the end of the novel. The character that I hated had to be Tao. I liked Joy’s relationship with him at the beginning of the novel, but I have to agree that they were rushing their relationship. I thought Joy was going to be happy, but she ends up miserable. Tao is ambitious and does whatever it takes to make himself important. I don’t believe that he loved Joy, but was using her because of her connections with her father, Z.G. (he’s an important artist with many connections in the government). Lastly, I was glad to see that Z.G. had a bigger role in this novel than the first novel. I loved him more in Dreams of Joy than I did in Shanghai Girls. He does what he must to survive in communist China.

Plot: Joy suffers from an identity crisis after realizing that her relatives have been lying to her for nineteen years. Joy is shocked beyond belief after finding out that Pearl is not really her mother. Influenced by the social group she joined at her university, she views communism as the best form of government. Though she has high expectations of communism, she slowly discovers that communism is not what she expected the more she stays in China. Pearl, her adoptive mother, does whatever she must to retrieve her daughter. As I’ve mentioned the story is told in alternating perspectives.

Sad Moments: There are many sad moments in this novel. Vern dies and May finally realizes how her sister Pearl feels about being a widow. Reunion with Cook in Shanghai. I did cry when Joy was declined a divorce and her close friend Kumei betrays her. I don’t want to spoil it too much but seriously, this novel has many sad events.

Awww Moments: My favorite one has to be Joy naming her daughter Samantha after her father Sam. It really made me happy. The second one would have to be Pearl finding love in Shanghai and letting go of her feelings for Z.G.

This novel did inspire me to learn more about Mao’s regime in China. Lisa See wrote about the Great Leap Forward and how destructive that plan was for the nation. I can’t wait to start her newest novel China Dolls. Would I recommend this book? Heck yes! I feel that Lisa See takes her time to research what she wants to write about. This is a great book and so is Shanghai Girls. My rating is a 4 out of 5. 😀

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