Book Review: “Dream of Joy” by Lisa See

Lisa See, the author of “Shanghai Girls” picked up where she left off on that novel This time, Joy, the daughter of the “Shanghai Girls” – two sisters – Pearl and May (birth mother), ran away to China just 8 years after People Republic of China was formed. The author goes through a great deal of research in finding the condition of early years of People’s Republic of China, the inner working of the Communist Party, the Great Leap Forward and the resulted famine throughout China. This novel gives the readers a glimpse of what is like to be living in China at that time. The novel was interesting and probably more mesmerizing than the previous novel – Shanghai Girls. I highly recommend it.

Below is a quick plot description:

Blinded by youthful idealism, confusion about who she was because of the shroud of lies her family put around her, and her desire to find her true father (Z.G.), Joy went to Hongkong and traveled across to China and eventually got to Shanghai.

After meeting her birth father, who was struggled against (public criticism) and had to travel to a village to re-educate himself, Joy traveled to the Green Dragon Village and met Tao, later became her husband. In the mean time, Joy’s mother, Pearl, traveled to Shanghai and stayed in her old Shanghai home working as a paper collector to wait for her daughter to come back.

When the mother and daughter finally met, they had a fight and the mother continued to wait for Joy’s change of heart. In the mean time, Pearl fell in love with Don, a boarder in her home before she left Shanghai 20 years before.

The next time they traveled back to Green Dragon Village, Joy and Tao decided to get married. Little did she realize, she was stepping into a nightmare – joining a family of 7 in a small hut. After Pearl and Z.G. left for Shanghai, Joy got pregnant then the famine hit the village with the onset of the Great Leap Forward. Throughout the ordeal, she was struggled against by her own husband, family members and even her friends. To survive, she put up with all the false beliefs, and bureaucracy. Near death, she was saved by her own wit in notifying her mom and Z.G. of her dire situation.

After being rescued back to Shanghai, Joy and Pearl plotted the exit out of China to return to USA. It was through some scheme and luck that they were able to get out with Z.G., Don, the little orphan boy, Tongming, Joy and her baby, thanks to Pearl’s final reunion with her father, who abandoned the family 20 years before.

The final scene was when Z.G. finally met May for the first time since her departure from Shanghai.

I think there could be more novel coming next after Joy, if Lisa See chooses to turn these stories into a “Root” in the Chinese way.