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May and Pearl, two sisters living in Shanghai in the mid-1930s, are beautiful, sophisticated, and well-educated, but their family is on the verge of bankruptcy. Hoping to improve their social standing, May and Pearl’s parents arrange for their daughters to marry “Gold Mountain men” who have come from Los Angeles to find brides.
But when the sisters leave China and arrive at Angel’s Island (the Ellis Island of the West)--where they are detained, interrogated, and humiliated for months--they feel the harsh reality of leaving home. And when May discovers she’s pregnant the situation becomes even more desperate. The sisters make a pact that no one can ever know.
A novel about two sisters, two cultures, and the struggle to find a new life in America while bound to the old, Shanghai Girls is a fresh, fascinating adventure from beloved and bestselling author Lisa See.
This puts me in mind of Pearl and May, the characters in Shanghai Girls. This feeling--longing for home and missing the people left behind--is at the heart of the novel. We live in a nation of immigrants. We all have someone in our families who was brave enough, scared enough, or crazy enough to leave the home country to come to America. I’m a real mutt in terms of ancestry, but I know that the Chinese side of my family left China because they were fleeing war, famine, and poverty. They were lured to America in hopes of a better life, but leaving China also meant saying goodbye to the homes they’d been born in, to their parents, brothers, and sisters, and to everything and everyone they knew. This experience is the blood and tears of American experience.
Pearl and May are lucky, because they come to America together. They’re sisters and they have each other. I’ve always wanted to write about sisters and I finally got my chance with Shanghai Girls. You could say that either I’m an only child or that I’m one of four sisters, because I have a former step-sister I’ve known for over 50 years and two half-sisters from different halves who I’ve known since they were born. Is Shanghai Girls autobiographical? Not really, but my sister Katharine and I once had a fight that was like the flour fight that May and Pearl got into when they were girls. And there was an ice cream incident that I used in the novel that sent my sister Clara right down memory lane when she read the manuscript. I’m also the eldest, and we all know what that means. I’m the one who’s supposed to be the bossy know-it-all. (But if that’s true, then why are they the ones who are always right?) What I know is that we’re very different from each other and our life experiences couldn’t be more varied, and yet we have a deep emotional connection that goes way beyond friendship. My sisters knew me when I was a shy little kid, helped me survive my first broken heart, share the memories of bad family car trips, and were at my side for the happiest moments in my life. More recently, we’ve begun to share things like the loss of our childhood homes, the changing of the neighborhoods we grew up in, and the frailties and illnesses of our myriad parents.
My emotions and experiences are deeply entwined with the stories I write. So as I fly over the Pacific, of course I’m thinking about May and Pearl, the people and places they left behind, the hopes and dreams that kept them moving forward, and the strength and solace they found in each other, but I’m thinking about myself too. As soon as I get to the hotel, I’m going to call my husband and sons to tell them I arrived safely, and then I’m going to send some e-mails to my sisters.--Lisa See
(Photo © Patricia Williams)--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Fascinating story of culture in Shanghai and Los Angeles.
I realize the author left it open because there will obviously be a sequel to this book, but it feels like she met some pre-determined word count and just ended it.
I have read a previous Lisa See book, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and enjoyed that one as well.
I have read two books about life for Chinese women and I promise I will not read another. They are not happy reads and are so depressing that It is really difficult for me to... Read morePublished 4 days ago by karen snelson
This is a very enjoyable that provides a picture of China and American Chinatown. After reading it I ordered the second book that follows the first. Read morePublished 5 days ago by Menehune
The trials and tribulations for women always amazes me. This is a wonderful story of courage, hope and family for ever.Published 7 days ago by Vicky Nicholson
LOVED this book!!!! It is one of the most interesting things I've read in the past year, and I can't help but reread it every few months. Read morePublished 9 days ago by SB
May and Pearl are amazing characters. The book takes you back in time to a country, transition and cultural/economic/social elements that are distant from lives in present day... Read morePublished 9 days ago by Amazon Customer
I unfortunately read DREAMS OF JOY first. I wish I had read them in chronological order even though I enjoyed them both immensely. Read morePublished 11 days ago by HalKid2
I love Lisa See's talent to keep the reader wanting more. A great read!!Published 12 days ago by Susan S.
Wonderful insight into the history of Red China and the difficulty encountered in America.Published 13 days ago by sonja langburt
Good Read. It gives a different perspective on the suffering of the Chinese population.Published 16 days ago by Nikki