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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on July 8, 2011
Set in the late 1950s, "Dreams of Joy" is the story of young Joy Louie who leaves her comfortable home in Los Angeles' Chinatown for the People's Republic of China to find both her birth father and what she thinks will be a better way of life. Her association with a communist group at the University of Chicago has led her to believe that it isn't the evil portrayed by the United States Government.

Since her birth father is a well-known artist in Shanghai, it is fairly easy for her to find him in spite of government restrictions. After his initial shock of discovering he even has a daughter, he seems happy to know her. She travels with him to the village of Green Dragon where she joins the commune and falls in love with a young peasant farmer.

In 1958, Mao announced the "Great Leap Forward," an attempt to increase agricultural and industrial production. However, three years of floods and bad harvest due to poor farming methods, severely damaged levels of production. The famine that occurred reportedly resulted in 4.5 million fatalities. The author masterfully transports us to that village and shows us in startling detail the horrors that result from this famine. Her attention to detail is wonderful and, while the book isn't a page-turner in the sense of a thriller, I was spellbound by the history of a period in China that has always fascinated me.

Although "Dreams of Joy" is the sequel to "Shanghai Girls," which I have never read, I found it stands alone quite well. Since I am always intrigued by the history of China, I will certainly go back and read the prequel, as well as Ms. See's earlier books. She is a skilful author with the ability to transfer the reader to the exotic country she writes about.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
On August 23, 1957, nineteen-year-old Joy, is a confused and upset Chinese girl. Everything she thought she knew about her birth has been a lie! The woman she thought was her mother was her aunt. Her aunt is actually her mother, and the man she loved as her father turns out not to have been her father at all and now he's dead. Her "biological" father is an artist from Shanghai whom both her mother and aunt have loved since before Joy was born. His name is Li Zhi-ge or Z.G. Li Zhi-ge used to paint Joy's mother and aunt when they were models back in Shanghai.

At 2 o'clock in the morning, Joy decides to leave their Los Angeles, California home and go to China. She packs a bag, writes her mother a note and quietly slips out the door. She walks to the nearest pay phone and calls her boyfriend Joe and tells him to get up, get dressed and get on a plane to San Francisco to meet her - they were going to China! Joe was having no part of that and hung up on her. However, Joy is still going to China, determined as ever to find her "real" father: "...even if he lives in a country of 600 million."

Joy is dazzled by Z.G. but is totally blinded by idealism and defiance and throws herself into the New Society of Red China, heedless of the dangers in the Communist regime.

Distraught by Joy's leaving and terrified for her safety, Pearl is determined to save her daughter, no matter the personal cost. From the crowded city to remote villages, Pearl confronts old demons and almost insurmountable challenges as she follows Joy, hoping for reconciliation.

A beautiful story of a family challenged by tragedy and time, but ultimately united by the resilience of love. Lisa See has a remarkable ability for writing and I've read every book she has written and with each one she just keeps outdoing herself. This is one you won't want to miss.
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on December 4, 2014
Amazing book! Love it and I recommend it!
It’s a profound story with many turning points, emotions, adventures and horror moments.
I loved the main characters and their continuous fight for their own dreams.

Here are some quotes I like and would love to share:
“Everybody works so everybody eats.”
“A hurried marriage is not a solid basis for a marriage. Suicide is not a solution to unhappiness.”
“Just remember, a person is his – or her – history. If your history isn't good, then you won’t be good. A rebel as a five-year-old will be a rebel as young man and will die a rebel.”
“The spear hits the bird that sticks his head out.”
“As long as we have enthusiasm and determination, we can achieve anything!”
“An inch of gold won’t buy an inch of time.”
“Always show the greatest kindness to the ones you like the least. If you show kindness to your mother-in-law, who like all women has been bred to hate her daughter-in-law, then you will create an obligation she will never be able to repay.”
“No matter what you’re feeling or how desperate you become, always take a moral position.”
“Those who have little to lose don’t want to lose what little they have. “
“…men are attracted to women who are crazy about them.”
“…truth, forgiveness, and goodness are more important than revenge, condemnation, and cruelty.”
“Give a low man one ounce of power and he’ll throw ten thousand pounds of bricks on your head.”
“Nothing is more precious than when you might lose it.”
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on October 8, 2014
I really enjoyed this book. It was full of insight and gave a riveting story of the beginning enthusiasm of the PRC, followed by the reality of a planned economy, all the while interweaving the personal story of a young idealistic girl.
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