The story begins where Shanghai Girls left off. Joy, the American daughter of a Shanghai born mother, decides to leave her home in search of her father and a new life – in Red China. The time period is the late 1950’s and this is the China of Chairman Mao and the Great Leap forward. Joy’s mother, Pearl, of course chases after her. The tale that follows is classic Lisa See. It is gripping, wonderful, sad and everything See fan’s have come to expect from her.
This is an important work for a number of reasons. First, there is little information out there about life in China during these early years of Mao Tse Tung. See gathers information, written and oral, to put together an impressive historical account of the downhill slide of China’s economy. Second, I really appreciated how the main character, Joy, did not immediately see the havoc that China’s political decisions were wreaking on the people. It was a slow realization – and for most of China’s population, that’s exactly how it happened. It’s easy to look at history in hindsight and claim that we would never fall prey to that kind of indoctrination. But it happens all the time, and that is why a book like Dreams of Joy is so important. It reminds us that we need to be extra vigilant, and above all, to understand that a human life is the most valuable thing on earth. No matter the age, the race or the class, we must fight to protect these ideals.
5 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2011