Thank you to whoever recommended this novel for our book club. It was exactly the kind of read I’d been craving — well-written, suspenseful, engaging characters, and a historical context for good measure. For those who haven’t read it and plan to, you should probably stop reading this post now…
OK, so those of you who read the book know it ends with a cliffhanger and that there’s a sequel, Dreams of Joy, that follows Pearl’s daughter Joy as she searches for her biological father, Z.G., in China. Were you surprised to learn who her real father was? I saw that one a mile away. Did your opinion of May change at all learning that she slept with the guy her sister was so gaga over? I thought all along that she was pretty self-interested, so my opinion of her remained the same.
Which sister did you sympathize with more? I found myself more sympathetic toward Pearl, but I thought that for two women who were strong enough to escape to California the way they did, they sure settled into a victim mentality pretty easily for the rest of the book. I kept wanting them to run away and make a better life for themselves and Joy. Especially when Pearl learned that Sam was a paper son and had no emotional allegiance to Father Louie, I couldn’t understand why they didn’t want to pool their resources and skills and make a new home for themselves.
What did you think about May turning in Sam at the end of the book? What about his suicide? That twist felt a little odd. For all her faults, I can’t imagine May doing such a dumb thing. And Sam, who had accepted such a grim fate for the last twenty-plus years to just hang himself like that seemed far-fetched, too.
And did you believe that both sisters felt that their parents loved the other sister more? As someone who grew up in a two-daughter nuclear family, that part seemed realistic to me, as did the idea of one sister being labeled the “smart” one and one the “pretty” one. Are all two-daughter homes like this? Why are girls/ young women always being defined as one thing or another? Does this happen to boys, too?
Anyway, I would love to hear your thoughts on Shanghai Girls, and don’t forget, we’ll be reading Wild for August, which you can buy here (ebook) and here (hardback). And, One Last Thing Before I Go for September, which you can pre-order here (ebook) and here (hardback).