Dreams of the Red Phoenix

Taking her grandmother’s life as inspiration, the author of the critically acclaimed River of Dust returns with a story set in the dangerous summer of 1937. Widowed American missionary and now single mother Shirley Carson finds herself caught up in the Japanese invasion of North China and the rise of Communism. At first, she finds renewed purpose helping the injured. But as the Japanese take their village, a charismatic Red Army officer requests her help for his soldiers. As other Americans make plans to flee, Shirley must choose: between helping the Chinese Reds by serving as a nurse or escaping the war-ravaged country with her teenage son before it’s too late.

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Praise for Dreams of the Red Phoenix

“Gripping, convincing, and heartbreaking, Dreams of the Red Phoenix is powerfully evocative of the complexities of life in 1930s China. A real page-turner and thought-provoker—wonderful.”

Gish Jen

“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

“Virginia Pye vividly imagines Dreams of the Red Phoenix.”

Vanity Fair

“A tale of idealism and courage, deceit and treachery, Dreams of the Red Phoenix blends religion, family, geopolitics and history into a hearty, heartwarming and heart-rending feast of fact-based fiction, one inspired by Pye’s imagination and rendered with care and love.”


“Pye is a remarkable writer, and it shows in this harrowing tale of loss and war.”


“Superb historical fiction!”