Mary Verdick's Reviews > Shanghai Girls

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See
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's review
Mar 05, 2010

really liked it

This book gives a fascinating look at another culture and another time in both Chinese and American history. It's 1937 in Shanghai, a glamorous cosmopolitan city, where 21-year-old Pearl Chin and her younger sister May live. Both girls are beautiful, although quite different in personality, Pearl being the strong, stubborn one, while May is placid and sweet. Their father owns a successful rickshaw business and the girls enjoy a comfortable life with servants to wait on them and lots of money to buy all the pretty clothes they want. They are happy and carefree, without a worry in the world. Then tragedy strikes! Their dad tells them he has lost his wealth, due to his gambling, and in order to pay his debts to the notorious Green Gang, he has sold the girls as wives to well-to-do men from California, who want Chinese brides.

The sisters, who have no choice, must leave their beautiful home as Japanese bombs fall on the city. As they start their fateful journey to a far-off land more terrors await them as they are brutalized by soldiers and their mother is killed. And that's only the beginning--when they finally reach California they must adjust to life with husbands they barely know, who are not wealthy as they'd been told, but poor as the proverbial church mice. The girls face poverty for the first time in their lives and in spite of the hardships learn to cope. But what is even harder to face is the discrimination against Chinese people they have to live with on a daily basis and the Communist witch hunts that plagued America during that time. Yet somehow Pearl and May persevere and learn to love America while still clinging to their Chinese heritage, and the sisterly bond between the girls gives them strength, proving they are real Shanghia girls.

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