Description of Dreams Of the Red Phoenix by Virginia Pye:
During the dangerous summer of 1937, a newly widowed American missionary finds herself and her teenage son caught up in the midst of a Japanese invasion of North China and the simultaneous rise of Communism. Meanwhile a charismatic Red Army officer requests her help and seems to have shared some surprising secret about her husband.
Shirley must manage her grief even as she navigates between her desire to help the idealistic Chinese Reds fight the Japanese by serving as a nurse and the need to save both herself and her son by escaping the war-ravaged country before it’s too late.
Taking her own grandmother’s life as inspiration, Virginia Pye, author of the critically-acclaimed debut novel River of Dust, has written a stunning new novel of Americans in China on the cusp of World War II.
My Thoughts on Dreams Of the Red Phoenix by Virginia Pye:
In 1937 Shirley, an American woman is left in North China with her Teen-aged son, Charles when her Reverend husband dies in an accident. She mourns for a very long time. However, one day a bunch of Chinese end up on her door step trying to escape certain death from the Japanese invaders. Many are injured and since Shirley use to be a nurse, she sets up a hospital in her house.
Meanwhile the head Reverend is making plans for all of the Americans in the complex to go back to the U.S. soon. They are not part of the war but they also know that they won’t be safe for much longer in China.
While Shirley tends to the wounded, her son, Charles is left to his own devises. As happens with most teenagers, he gets into mischief. A very dangerous situation with the Japanese presence. However, he also does a lot of growing up which, Shirley doesn’t even notice until much later.
Do the Americans get out of North China in time? What happens to Shirley and Charles? You will have to read the book to find out.
While reading the book my admiration for Shirley really grows. She ends up being a strong female who makes her own decisions and rescues many people from death were their wounds to go untreated. However, I also get really mad at her for practically abandoning her son. Just because they live in the same house doesn’t mean that she is being a mother to him which, he desperately needed.
I have to confess that it took me until the fourth chapter to really get into this book. However, once I got to chapter four, I found it almost impossible to put the book down! The drama and plot builds and builds while the main characters are well drawn out. I think Virginia Pye captures the place and time beautifully. So much so that I felt like I was transported to 1937 North China.
I highly recommend Dreams Of the Red Phoenix!
I received this book for my honest review.
Praise for Dreams Of the Red Phoenix by Virginia Pye:
“A missionary family is trapped by the invading Imperial Japanese Army in the “hard and disastrous land” that’s northern China, 1937 . . . . Shirley becomes further entangled with the revolutionaries until she’s forced to make a not-quite Sophie’s Choice but one that leaves her morally bereft . . . . There’s a comparison to Ballard’s Empire of the Sun, but this unflinching look at a brutal era in a faraway place shares truth in its own way.”-Kirkus Reviews
“Gripping, convincing, and heartbreaking, Dreams of the Red Phoenix is powerfully evocative of the complexities of life in 1930’s China. A real page-turner and thought-provoker — wonderful.”-Gish Jen
Virginia Pye’s essays can be found in The New York Times Opinionator blog, The Rumpus, Brain, Child, and elsewhere. Her debut novel, River of Dust, was an Indie Next Pick and a Virginia Literary Awards Finalist in Fiction. Carolyn See in The Washington Post called it “intricate and fascinating;” Annie Dillard said it’s “a strong, beautiful, deep book;” Robert Olen Butler named it “a major work by a splendid writer;” and Caroline Leavitt described it as “a gemstone of a novel…a masterpiece.” Virginia has published award-winning short stories in literary magazines, including The North American Review, The Tampa Review, and The Baltimore Review. Her short e-book Her Mother’s Garden was published by SheBooks in January, 2014.
She holds an MFA from Sarah Lawrence and has taught writing at New York University and the University of Pennsylvania. Virginia currently divides her time between Richmond and Cambridge, MA. Her new novel, Dreams of the Red Phoenix, inspired by her grandmother, is due out in October 2015 from Unbridled Books.
Giveaway of Dreams Of the Red Phoenix by Virginia Pye:
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