By Lisa See
As the protagonist, Pearl Chin always felt the need to protect her younger sister, May, from any harm that could be brought to her. Growing up as a beautiful girl, Pearl was used to living a wealthy lifestyle, until everything changed. Learning of the deal her father made to pay for his personal debts, Pearl decides to hide until the men she was arranged to marry in the deal, left for American shores. Nothing but bad luck seems to hover over this family of two, like a storm cloud that relishes watching the tortured people below. From one event to the next, the girls push their way to America after their beautiful city is bombed, suffering greatly along the way. Pearl is a unique character because she describes these horrific events with such a calm tone-as if they were not bad at all.
Knowing only of the treasures money could buy, May Chin, the youngest of the two girls has to come to the harsh realization that her life will never be the same. Strong hands and a tough build could've helped her after the deal her father made came up, but sadly, May had done nothing but pose for various artists her whole life, and was not prepared for what lay ahead. Although her body may be weak, Mays attitude throughout the whole novel was nothing but strong. As the reader delves into this novel, they find out that May is tougher than she seems to be. From giving up her child to keeping that secret for almost twenty years as her once-child now believes she is the aunt, May continuously surprises the reader with her inner strength. For example, after May finds her mother dead in a shack, along with her sister on the verge of dying, she summons enough strength within her to push Pearl miles upon miles to keep her alive.