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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)
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.
Really enjoyed the true historical facts and people woven into the story of Shanghai Girls. Enjoyed the book, however I was disappointed with the ending.Published 1 day ago by jlr
Great book, easy to read and hard to put down, I would highly recommend this book for anyone looking for an interesting book about China and AmericaPublished 3 days ago by sara
Loved it! Gripping. Details kept me engrossed. Fell in love with the characters. Amazing story of sacrifice, love, family secrets, pursuit of a better life.Published 3 days ago by California Mom
Wonderful story and real page-turner! Lisa See has paints a compelling portrait of two sisters during the 1930s and 1940s, as they travel to Los Angeles, California from Shanghai,... Read morePublished 9 days ago by Avi Hui
Shanghai Girls tells the story of two Chinese sisters as they flee the Japanese conquest of China to face discrimination in the US. Read morePublished 13 days ago by J.L. Greger
Interesting and a look into life as people 's positions and expectations are changed due to their station in life.Published 13 days ago by Catherine A. Schafer
Very real characters with a moving story. Lisa See is one of my favorite authors.Published 13 days ago by Donna Levy