The title of this book has a bit of a dual meaning in that the characters from book one are desperately seeking a happy, joy-filled ending; and also, the central heroine of this story is Joy - the daughter from Shanghai Girls - who ventures out on the reverse trip of her mother and aunt, traveling from California back to China. Joy is seeking both her birth father, the artist Z.G. Li, and what she views as an idealist society in Chairman Mao's communist republic, but she soon learns that ideals and reality rarely line up. Pearl follows her daughter, seeking to bring Joy back home, and both women face questions of the true meanings of home and family.
As with many of her previous novels, Lisa See's signature style of emotionally charged character drama is alive in this book. The landscape and daily details are vividly described; and contrasting themes of love and loss intertwine with a story about the turbulent political climate of China in the late 1950's and early 60's. I really enjoyed how this book answered the questions I was left with after Shanghai Girls. At times I found Joy's rebellious spirit to be a frustrating character trait, but she definitely grew throughout the story. I appreciated that she was a unique individual with a perspective similar to Pearl's and May's, yet distinctly her own. Overall, See has created yet another magnificent and captivating work!
An advance review copy of this work was provided by LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program. This review represents my honest and unbiased opinions. Dreams of Joy by Lisa See is on sale tomorrow May 31, 2011.