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Cannonball Read #1: Shanghai Girls

11/05/2009

Do you hate it when you come close to the end of a book thinking that the author has a few more pages to conclude the story; and then you find that all those extra pages are the acknowledgements or glossary, and the story ends much more suddenly than you anticipated? There’s no “to be continued”, it just ends?

You have now been forewarned about Shanghai Girls by Lisa See. I wish I had been.

It’s a shame because I really was anticipating a different resolution of the story. Instead, the novel ends with the main character’s determination to solve the problem, rather than the actual solution. I guess it’s a good thing that I felt that the novel ended too quickly, because I really wanted to find out more of what happens.

Shanghai Girls is the story of two sisters, Pearl and her younger sister May, starting in Shanghai in 1937. The novel follows them through their father selling them into arranged marriages to repay his gambling debts, the bombing of Shanghai by the Japanese, their eventual journey to San Francisco, and life in America up until the (early?) sixties. Lisa See does a wonderful job of portraying the customs and attitudes of the locales and times.

Pearl and May go through a lot together – betrayal, lies, death, violence, and the adjustment of living in a new country with strangers for husbands, but their sisterhood and love for each other always remains. I grew up with only one sibling – a brother (who is awesome!), so I cannot really understand the sister thing. I do have two daughters, and while I hope that they never have to go through anything remotely like these sisters, I do hope that their bond will be just as strong.

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