Author: Lisa See
Published by Scribner on March 21, 2017
Genres: Historical Fiction
Format: eBook, ARC
Source: Scribner, NetGalley
Book Rating: 8/10
A thrilling new novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa See explores the lives of a Chinese mother and her daughter who has been adopted by an American couple.
Li-yan and her family align their lives around the seasons and the farming of tea. There is ritual and routine, and it has been ever thus for generations. Then one day a jeep appears at the village gate—the first automobile any of them have seen—and a stranger arrives.
In this remote Yunnan village, the stranger finds the rare tea he has been seeking and a reticent Akha people. In her biggest seller, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, See introduced the Yao people to her readers. Here she shares the customs of another Chinese ethnic minority, the Akha, whose world will soon change. Li-yan, one of the few educated girls on her mountain, translates for the stranger and is among the first to reject the rules that have shaped her existence. When she has a baby outside of wedlock, rather than stand by tradition, she wraps her daughter in a blanket, with a tea cake hidden in her swaddling, and abandons her in the nearest city.
After mother and daughter have gone their separate ways, Li-yan slowly emerges from the security and insularity of her village to encounter modern life while Haley grows up a privileged and well-loved California girl. Despite Haley’s happy home life, she wonders about her origins; and Li-yan longs for her lost daughter. They both search for and find answers in the tea that has shaped their family’s destiny for generations.
A powerful story about a family, separated by circumstances, culture, and distance, Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane paints an unforgettable portrait of a little known region and its people and celebrates the bond that connects mothers and daughters.
Atmospheric, evocative, and remarkably researched!
This story is predominantly set in a mountainous village in rural China where the Akha subsist off the tea tree leaves that grace the landscape and are governed by the ancient superstitions, traditions and spirituality passed down from generation to generation.
The prose is descriptive and precise. The characters are genuine, strong, intelligent and hardworking. And the story has two distinct plots; one involving the coming-of-age, independence, perseverance and success of Li-Yan as she bravely follows her aspirations beyond the confines of her home; and the other which details the struggles and difficulties faced by her daughter, Haley, being raised by adoptive parents of a different race, culture and country than that of her ancestry.
I would have to say that although I found the history of tea production and insight into the ethnic minorities of China incredibly fascinating and enjoyable in this novel the ending felt just a little bit rushed. I would definitely have appreciated and welcomed a few more pages dedicated to the climactic mother-daughter reunion at the end.
However, overall this book is well written, engrossing and well worth the read.
This book is due to be published on March 21, 2017.
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Thank you to NetGalley, especially Scribner, for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review.