Dreams of Joy is a sequel to Shanghai Girls. Shanghai Girls is the story of two sisters raised in post WWII Shanghai who are forced due to circumstances brought on by the gambling debts of their father to immigrate to the USA. They and their mother experience terrible hardships and brutality. I got to know the two sisters pretty well along with various members of their families. Shanghai Girls ended on a cliff hanger. The teenage daughter of one of the sisters has decided (it is 1957) to follow a boyfriend and go to China to look for her biological father and participate in Mao's Great Leap Forward.
Joy has been raised in in American comfort. She seems very spoiled and pays little attention to her elders. She is also very naive. I was shocked when she surrendered her passport to Chinese authorities knowing they would not return it to her.
Joy ends up joining a collective farm. In spite of all the claims to the contrary, bribes go a long way in Mao's China and Joy is able to get to acquire the paperwork she needs. She ends up easily, really too easily I thought, finding her real father (a poster artist) and joins him in the countryside teaching the people to make posters glorying China, Mao, and the hero workers. Her mother Pearl also pretty easily finds her daughter and even her own father. There are a lot of plot twists and turns. Joy marries against her mother's advise. (The plot is complicated by old deceptions developed in Shanghai Girls about who the real father and mother of Joy are.)
See does a very good job bringing bringing this era to life for( around 1957 to 1961) us. There is a lot of interesting details about life on collective farms.
I think you should probably read Shanghai Girls before you read Dreams of Joy, otherwise you will have a hard time getting interested in the main characters.
I am glad I read this book. I think you should first read Shanghai Girls and if you like it a lot then I would endorse Dreams of Joy to you.
In the interests of full disclosure, I was sent a review copy of this book by
Please share your experience with Lisa See with us-