I have a most excellent read to recommend to you--
DREAM OF JOY by Lisa See.
This is a sequel to See's earlier book,
So, before you read it,
I strongly recommend you read the first book.
Although DREAMS OF JOY easily succeeds
as a stand alone book, it will be a much
more enjoyable read if you have the back story.
SHANGHAI GIRLS is the story of two Chinese sisters
living an affluent and self centered life
in Shanghai during the 1930s.
Their glamorous lives come to a sudden halt
when their father tells them he has lost his
fortune to gambling and is forced to "sell"
his two daughters as Chinese brides to
suitors from Los Angeles.
From here, the book tells the story
of the two sisters, Pearl and May,
their flight from China and
the lives they forge in America's Chinatown
as wives in arranged marriages.
DREAMS OF JOY is the continuing story of a
resulting daughter, Joy.
At the beginning of the second book,
Joy is a nineteen year old,
headstrong, University of Chicago student.
After learning that her mother Pearl,
is not actually her mother, but rather her aunt,
a disillusioned Joy, runs away to China,
to find her real father.
What she finds is a China just at the
beginning stages of Mao's "Great Leap Forward."
I found myself annoyed with Joy's optimism
of her life on a rural Chinese commune.
I had to remind myself, this story takes place
in the early 1950s, not today, and that
Joy does not have the hindsight of history I do.
Her character develops a depth and richness
as she begins to experience the deprivation and famine,
that killed as estimated 45 million people in China.
This book reminded me a lot of
Amy Tan's, THE JOY LUCK CLUB.
It also explores a period in
Chinese history that is difficult to fathom,
from extreme wealth and glamour,
to people abandoning their children because
of total poverty and starvation.
I hardily recommend both books.
If you like them, you might also read
See's, SNOW FLOWER AND THE SECRET FAN
(It's a great read too!)