Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Review: "China Dolls" by Lisa See

I am, by all accounts, a fairly voracious reader. I love books of a variety of genres and writing styles. I do, of course, have preferences and pet peeves. One thing I do enjoy in fiction books is an ending that ties up loose ends. While I appreciate a reader desiring to create their own version of a character's future, I highly value when an author delivers me to the end of the journey I embarked on when I cracked open the cover. And with certain novels, I become so intimate with characters and so invested in their outcomes that an ambiguous ending results in a few curse words directed at the author and frustration that seems to permeate my day.
"China Dolls" hooked me with well-written characters, trials and tribulations they experienced that were wholly believable, and an ending that left me satisfied and breathing a sigh of relief. Lisa See's novel is the story of Helen, Ruby, and Grace, three young women living in San Francisco in 1938, who meet and become dancers at the Forbidden City, a nightclub near Chinatown. Though they come from very different backgrounds, the three become fast friends, navigating the world of prejudice of their Oriental backgrounds and their own dreams of the future while battling the rollercoaster of their pasts. Helen comes from a privileged and highly respected family living in  Chinatown's largest compound. Grace hails from the Midwest and went to San Francisco seeking a new life away from her physically and emotionally abusive father. Ruby is a seductive vixen with no qualms about using her wiles to get ahead. Each of them, though, harbors secrets which lead to chasms within their friendships and tumultuous years ahead.
The novel is written in first person accounts by the three, each one narrating various different chapters throughout. It is easy to get wrapped up in their storylines, to cheer them on when they do good, to get frustrated when they are being naive, or to feel disdain when they do something offensive.
The story ends 50 years later, when the characters gather together for a 50th Anniversary show for the Forbidden City. It does a phenomenal job of resolving the fates of all the characters, tying up all the loose ends in a neat bow, just the way I like.
I received the book as an ARC from the publisher. It will be on sale on June 3, 2014, but is available for pre-order through Amazon and other booksellers now. I highly recommend getting this book and embarking on this journey, courtesy of Lisa See.

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About Me

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I first joined the Marine Corps in February of 1999. I was stationed at Camp Pendleton for three years and in Okinawa for one. I left active duty in 2003 and joined the Reserves that year. I had my first daughter in 2005, and moved from California to Massachusetts in 2006. I left the Marine Corps at that time, and had my second daughter in 2007. I reenlisted in the Corps in September of 2008 and went Active in 2009. I'm currently stationed back in California, loving the weather and the life!