Shanghai Girls by Lisa See got thumbs-up from our book club. Growing up in Shanghai, May and Pearl Chin are both models for Z.G. Li, a painter and photographer, whom they both fall in love with. As “beautiful girls,” the sisters live a life of parties and glamour until their father loses the family fortune and sells the girls to prospective husbands. The girls refuse and during the Japanese invasion of Shanghai in 1937, they attempt to cross the countryside to make their escape. Along the way they have a horrific encounter with Japanese soldiers. Brace yourself. It’s a disturbing scene that’s not for the faint of heart.
Eventually they make it to America and are interned at Angel Island for a long time. In order to stay in America, the sisters marry the Louie brothers who are strangers to them. In Los Angeles Chinatown, under one roof they find that life is very challenging with racial and financial struggles. Slowly they assimilate to their new family and carve out very different lives. Pearl is the responsible one. She and her husband raise baby Joy while still meeting the familial obligations to Louie’s parents. May’s new husband is mentally impaired, very childlike, and she seeks out a more self-centered lifestyle.
The book is fast paced enough, but at the very end, hang on for a ride, because it goes at warp speed. There’s a lot going on with when now grown-up daughter, Joy, discovers past cover-ups and lies, false family ties, and the identity of her real parents. It ends with Joy running off to communist China. At that point our book club smelled a sequel, and sure enough a couple years later Dreams of Joy was published. Read other reviews at http://readinginthegarden.blogspot.com
Very well written. Captures your attention and makes you want to read faster to find out what happens to the sisters... Definitely a MUST read!
Prewar to post war China as lived by two beautiful girls.