SPOILERS BELOW (for the sequel of the book: Dreams of Joy
So I went on to read the sequel to the book, Dreams of Joy. I think I liked this book better but I had the same feelings that I did for the first one. I really enjoyed the historical aspect of the story, getting insight into The Great Leap Forward and the horrors of those times, but the author definitely lacks when it comes to the emotional connection to her characters. I thought she did a better job of it in this book. Often times I felt much like Pearl – the mom, doing all she can to patiently and successfully get through to her daughter. I imagine the arrogance and naivety of youth is what most moms will go through but holy smokes I wanted to smack joy through most of the first half of the book. But I got it….when I was a young teenager, I went to the Philippines for the first time and I remember falling in love with the simplicity of it. Sure there were roaches coming out of the pipes in the shower and the pig pens were to the side of the dining hall….but the grand adventure and amazing people. It was good for a few weeks but I welcomed the sight of San Francisco on our way home.
With that in mind, I could almost buy into Joy’s story. I had a harder time placing myself in the political upheaval of her world. Her home country turned on her family so turning to the glamour of a new world is enticing. I saw that. Her time in Shanghai though was all glamour –
limo rides to dinner parties and fancy dresses from her father. How nice for her! But her marriage and the life she chose to live – how could a girl who went to college in Chicago want that life? That morning after her wedding night, I could almost feel the blow to her ego. What a mess she got herself in!
I thought her “rescue” was a little too easy. So her parents walk into the village and walk out without any resistance? Okay.
Overall, a good read. I didn’t like the narrator in the audio book. She gave Joy such a high pitched, squeaky voice that totally shaped her in my mind. I wonder if Joy would have been less petulant had I read the book instead of listened to the audio.