The research she has done in advance of writing about Communist China is evident in her descriptions, and in her accentuation of the disparity between the masses (peasants) and the elite (leaders). As a reader I was heartbroken when Joy could not see through the propaganda, but I understood that as a headstrong daughter who believed she had been lied to about Red China, she had to see for herself. Like so many young adults, she thought she was so much smarter and more savvy than her parents, when in reality she was impressionable and easily manipulated. She thought she understood the world better because she was getting a college education, and she didn’t realize (until much later) that real education comes from one’s experiences. I thoroughly appreciated Lisa See’s ability to create in Pearl Chin a woman (a mother) who goes after her daughter in spite of her fears, but after finding her, understands that forcing her back to the United States will never work. This understanding does not come easily to Pearl, especially in the wake of her own life experiences, but it is gratifying that facing the demons of her past allows her to understand her daughter in a way she never would have otherwise.
There are wonderful, satisfying conclusions at the end of Dreams of Joy, and yet there are hints of a future story still to be told, and I hope the author will one day indulge us.