This sequel to Shanghai Girls starts in 1950s Los Angeles. University student Joy (Pearl's adopted daughter) has become enamored with Communism. In the wake of her adopted father's suicide, she decides to go to China and find her real father, artist Z.G. Li, and join in the cultural revolution herself. In order to do this, she runs away from home.
Needless to say, things do not go at all like Joy expects them to. Life in the collective/commune is not what the advertisements said it would be, and neither is Joy's personal life.
In the mean while, Pearl is determined to find her daughter ... and comes back to China herself, knowing that she may well have a hard time leaving. Her familial home is filled with boarders whom she knew as a child, and the cook is now a high-ranking committee man. Luckily, Pearl has some allies who are willing to help her find her daughter.
The reunion is not easy, and neither are the subsequent events. Lisa See takes a hard look at women's lives during a revolution that supposedly made them equal ... and also at the famine that resulted from some of the more ridiculous and unsustainable ideas that came out of the revolution.
This is not an easy read, nor is it at times uplifting. However, it is frequently hopeful ... and that keeps the reader going. The outcome is satisfying, and the book keeps one's interest throughout. Highly recommended.