Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Nightwoods and Dreams of Joy

I'm sharing two books today in an attempt to catch up with myself. I want to post about each book that I read (or listen to) in 2012, and I'm already behind.
This was my first audio book of the year. I listen to audio books while driving. They are very entertaining and also help to keep me awake and alert on those middle of the night driving shifts. I chose this book because I wanted to read more of Charles Frazier's work after falling in love with his other novel, Cold Mountain. Many may be familiar with that title as the movie was a bit of a hit. I, for one, loved the movie, and saw it first. Then read the book when I learned the movie was based on the book. The book...oh my gosh! It is so beautifully written, a piece of art where language is concerned, and he portrayed the Appalachian people during the Civil War so well! Also, the audio version (yes I read the book AND listened to it on audio AND saw the movie) was wonderful. Mr. Frazier narrates it himself and did a spectacular job!

Back to Nighwoods, which this post is supposed to be about anyway. This book is also set in the Appalachians during the 1960's/70's. It is a bit of a suspense novel, telling the story of a woman who has become a bit of a recluse after tragic events in her life. Suddenly she finds herself the guardian of her sister's young children, after her sister is murdered by the children's step-father. And in the midst of trying to help the children recover from their traumatic experience, the step-father shows up in town, determined to retrieve the money his wife had hidden from him, and convinced that the children know where it is hidden. In short, he comes after them and he's not planning on a happy family reunion.

This is the second book of Mr. Frazier's that I've read and I love the way he writes. His words on paper portray so well the speech of the Appalachian people. And his descriptions of the surroundings bring me home to east Tennessee, and western North Carolina. The narrator also did a good job on this book, though I preferred the author himself as he did so well in Cold Mountain.

Now for the second (really third) book for this post.
This book was well written and well narrated. A few words of advice on this one. If you have not yet read Shanghai Girls by the same author, then you need to read that first, as Dreams of Joy is pretty much a sequel to Shanghai Girls and I felt that a reader who had missed the first book would not be able to fully appreciate the story in this one. Shanghai Girls was very good and I would encourage you to read that one, and then come read Dreams of Joy.
Also, as I mentioned before, I use the audio books to help me stay alert while driving, and I was worried when I first started this one. I thought it dull and was having a hard time staying awake at the wheel during my first night of listening. Fortunately, I didn't give up on it and during my second night the story really took off and I was captured through to the end.
Dreams of Joy tells the story of Pearl's daughter, Joy. It picks the story up right where Shanghai Girls left off. Nineteen year old Joy, devastated by the death of her father, and of learning that he wasn't her father at all, makes a rash decision to leave America and return to China to help build the new People's Republic of China. Pearl, knowing what her daughter is walking into, goes after her. The story follows their experiences surviving in the communist country, their reunion and their attempt to escape back to the United States.
I really enjoyed it once it got going, and knowing that the author, who is descended from Chinese immigrants and has actually returned to China to visit her ancestral village and done tons of research, I felt that I could believe the characters experiences as being based on actual conditions and experiences of the Chinese people during those early years under communism. In that, I was fascinated by the historical lesson and glimpse into a culture and society totally foreign to me.
All in all, it was a good book and I'd recommend it as an audio or self-read book. But you really must read Shanghai Girls first.


  1. I have this book and hope to start it soon. Have Charles Frazier's first book. His father was my HS principal and though I went to school with Charles didn't know him really well. Love his writings though and look forward to this one!

  2. I really really enjoyed Shanghai Girls and looked forward with great anticipation to Dreams of Joy. Unfortunately it was a disappointment for me. I just never connected. All reviews are good though so it must be me.