Dreams of Joy is the sequel to Lisa See’s bestselling 2009 novel, Shanghai Girls. Joy is devastated after the suicide of her adoptive father and more upset when she learns about family secrets kept in order to protect her. Joy runs away from home to China to find her biological father, Z.G. Li, who is a famous artist in Shanghai and attempting to re-establish a positive relationship with the Communist Party and Mao Zedong. It’s 1957 and Mao is just initiating the Great Leap Forward initiative. Joy is idealistic and defiant so she throws herself into the work of rebuilding China in order to escape from the anger and pain she feels towards her family in California.
Joy’s adoptive mother, Pearl, follows her to China and risks her life in order to find Joy and encourage her to return home. Joy’s defiance continues; however, Pearl’s love is unconditional and she will go to extreme measures to protect her daughter. Joy and Pearl begin individual journeys that are set against the backdrop of a tragic period in China’s history.
Lisa See’s writing is fabulous. She develops wonderful characters and establishes a strong sense of place. The story is fast-paced and individual stories are woven together so the reader cares about the main characters, their feelings, and what happens to them in the story. I listened to Dreams of Joy and Janet Song’s narration is excellent. This book is highly recommended!