Sandra's Reviews > Dreams of Joy

Dreams of Joy by Lisa See
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Sep 15, 11

Read from July 28 to 31, 2011

Beautiful, beautiful book...and a bit horrifying as well. I was unaware when I started this book that it was part of a well-known series involving Pearl and Mae, two of the story's main characters. Joy is the 19 year old daughter of Chinese nationals who relocated to California at the start of China's "Cultural Revolution". The book opens with the death of Joy's father and a startling family skeleton revealed. Deeply shaken, Joy leaves the US to pursue her idea of China. Believing, as only a college student can, all she hears about the 'new' China, and juxtaposing that against her disillusionment with her life, she runs off to participate in Mao's "Great Leap Forward", with profound consequences for all.

Joy is as annoying as any know-it-all college kid, but also as lovable and sympathetic. Pearl and Mae are completely believable and fully dimensional, as are all characters right down to the most peripheral. See gives an in-depth look at a variety of lives, both in the US and in China, and at the global changes wrought by Maoist politics. The story of Joy's marriage and village life are so deeply disturbing that I had to stop reading, having forgotten the utter desperation and extreme poverty caused by the Great Leap forward and the famine. Horrors are in plentiful supply, but not used gratuitously, lest we forget, which I had.

See neatly ties up the threads of the story, but not in a trite or cloying way. Overall a very satisfying read and quite a re-education.
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