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Thursday, July 7, 2011

Book Review: Dreams of Joy

I’m sure you gathered from all the book reviews that I’m a pretty big reader.  Well, that love of the written word didn’t just pop outta nowhere, more like it’s stitched into my DNA.  I share this affection for books with my mother, who read to me each and every night growing up.  In fact, most arguments between us stem from the fact that she will only let me pick out two books at a time at the book store.  I also like to think of my fondness for literature as a link to my Grandpa Bert, who was known to devour books – my Mommy had to get it from somewhere, too, I suppose.

Anyway, since my Mom and I have similar taste in books, we often recommend and trade with each other – it’s our own little book club for two.  One book I found and loved was Shanghai Girls by Lisa See, which I picked up after reading Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, also by her.  I passed both books along to my Mom and she was equally enamored.  When Lisa See announced that Dreams of Joy, the sequel to Shanghai Girls was going to be released, my smart Mommy went online and pre-ordered two copies so we could read and discuss this much-anticipated book together.  She’s nearing the end, but I just finished so Mommy, if you’re reading this post, stop right now.  Come back when you finish your homework.

While the first book was all about Pearl, this one jumps back and forth between her point of view and that of her daughter, Joy, who seems to have inherited her mother’s lack of understanding.  The book picks up right where the other leaves off, with Joy running away when her father commits suicide and she discovers he was not really her father after all and her mother was really her aunt and her aunt was really her mother.  Yes, that’s confusing, which is probably why she decides to run away.  While Communist China would not be my first choice of havens, I might make the same rash decision if I just found out my biological father lived there.

As much as I liked seeing the Communist regime “in action”, I appreciated the insight into the poor Countryside during this time (late 50s) more.  I may have heard about the famine in school (truth be told, I don’t remember), but this put the lack of food into perspective.  Lisa See has a way of bringing the Chinese lifestyle to life that makes you feel like you could understand what it could have been like to be there – and I never thought I’d relate to Communism.  I will admit, I did not love this particular book quite as much as her others until I got to the last 70 pages, when I became just as invested as ever. 

Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

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