Dreams of the Red Phoenix
By: Virginia Pye
Dreams of the Red Phoenix is a rare and intimate look into a tumultuous and dangerous summer in China. During the summer of 1937, when the Japanese invaded the villages of rural north China, locals and missionaries are thrown into an unfolding drama where anything can happen. Virginia Pye, author of the acclaimed River of Dust, has artfully told yet another story. Drawing on the life of her grandmother for inspiration, Pye has created Dreams of the Red Phoenix, the story of a young american widow whose husband mysteriously died when visiting remote farms in the mountainous region of northern China. Shirley and her young son Charles struggle to continue life after his death but find it increasingly difficult as the situation becomes increasingly dangerous. The chinese people are stuck in a whirlpool caused between communists and Japanese soldiers duking it out in skirmishes scattered about their villages. When Shirley’s village comes under fire she must reach back to the brief time she served as a nurse and physically care for those whom her husband had recently ministered.
As Shirley cares for the wounded, the starving and the dying she begins to wonder what her husband was really doing. When the Japanese accuse her house of possessing a radio and helping the communists communicate she doesn’t know what to think. But as the conflict escalates, and the missionaries decide to return home Shirley might never find the truth, or make it out herself. Her friendship with a communist general and caring for his soldiers puts her at odds with a Japanese general, whom Shirley had met before her life in China when in school at Vassar. Expert writing and a steadily progressing plot wrapped me up and carried me off to China. I lost myself in the farmland, villages and mountainsides, finishing this book in just one day. It was that good. I very much enjoyed the glimpse into a time that I must admit, I know nothing about. Dreams of the Red Phoenix is a great read for readers who enjoy a wide variety of genres. Women, Christians, history buffs, and those who just like a good story can all get into this one.