This is the sequel to Shanghai Girls. I need to find this one so I can see how it all ends, since the first one's ending left me wondering.
I liked this one even more than Shanghai Girls. This one picks up where the last one left off, with Joy learning her family truths by overhearing an argument between Pearl and May, in which she runs away.
In Dreams of Joy we learn that Joy has run away to Shanghai to find her birth father, Z.G., and to see for herself if China is really as bad as her mothers' claim it to be. May stays behind in America to tend to the Cafe and her prop business, whereas Pearl, goes back to Shanghai to find Joy. May's voice is prevelant throughout the story through letters to both Pearl and Joy. This is a complex, intertwined story of a mother's love and a daughter's rebellion, in which both characters grow significantly, and come to understand one another better.
Joy does find Z.G. and as soon as she's introduced to him, they must leave to go to the countryside to teach art to the peasants of Green Dragon. This is Z.G.'s punishment for producing black art instead of red, but it's much better than being sent to labor re-education.
Once there, Joy falls in love with the georgeous countryside, Tao, art, and communism. However, things aren't at all what they seem, and the tide seems to shift for Joy when she gives birth to a baby girl, Samantha. Then things get even worse when the famine turns the people into famished zombies and Tao swaps Samantha with another baby girl to eat, in order to stay alive. Luckily, Joy realizes what's going on, and she's able to save Samantha from this cruel death. This part was heart-breaking because it was an actual historical event throughout China in the 1950's. Joy does everything she can to get the birgade leader on her side so that she can send pictures and hidden messages to Pearl, who literally drives to rescue her. Pearl also rescues Tao, Joy, and Ta-ming (a little boy Joy was close with, who's mother dies, and Pearl adopts).
Once safe and healthy Joy confides in Pearl and tells her everything and eventually she comes to understand that Pearl does love her and just wants her to be happy.
While all this is going on with Joy, Pearl finds her old Shanghai home. It's not the same as it once was, as there are many people living there, but she finds companionship with Dun (a professor whom she marries) and her old Cook. She also rekindles a friendship with Aunti Hu, and resolves her mixed up feelings regarding Z.G. At the end, she finds out that her father is still alive and burries the hatchet with him, as well.
Yes, this book requires you to suspend belief at times, but at the same time, it is a wonderfully written historical novel that has memorable characters, great descriptions, and historical relevance.
I'm excited to read See's next book.