Monday, August 3, 2009

#BookReview: Shanghai Girls - Lisa See

Spanning 1937 - 1957, Shanghai Girls, is the story of two sisters, May and Pearl. Living in 1937 Shanghai, the privileged daughters of a family rickshaw business are stunned to learn that their father has arranged marriages for them to pay off his debt.

Refusing to accept what he has done, the girls intentionally miss the boat that will take them to Hong Kong and then on to San Francisco and Los Angeles to start married life. After they receive a visit from the loan shark's henchmen, the daughters, along with their mother, decide that the best thing to do is exchange their two tickets for four tickets to Hong Kong, where the family can start over again. When war breaks out the following day, it becomes impossible to get to Hong Kong by boat and the girls and their mother are forced to travel to Hong Kong by foot when it becomes obvious that their father/husband has deserted them.

The sisters endure long months at the immigration detention center, where May gives birth to a child that cannot possibly be her husbands. Because she has already consummated her marriage, Pearl agrees to raise the child as her own. Learning that the family the girls have married into is not rich, as they claimed to be, both girls fight for survival in their own ways.

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