Sunday, October 1

Review: The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See

Title: The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane
By: Lisa See
My Copy: Library
The BookWhisperer's Rating:

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. 

My first introduction to Lisa See was when I read, “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan.”  It was incredible eye-opening book that described the ways of the Chinese culture intertwined with the bond of childhood friendship. See continues describing the Chinese culture but intertwines the mother-daughter bond in “The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane.”

Wow…does this woman know how to write!  Immediately I found myself drawn to Li-yan and her Akha people.  Their lifestyle was fascinating and rough.  They manually labored from dusk to dawn and then some.  Every family member contributed for everything that they made was either sold or used to survive.  One would think that a rough childhood would deserve a smooth adulthood but in this story, you would be wrong.

While Li-yan grows, she finds herself facing multiple troubles in the sense of her future.  Following in her mother’s footsteps is harder than she realizes, especially when she rather continue her schooling and farther her education. Li-yan also falls in love with a young man who is her dream but her family does not approve of him.  She fights for her love only to have her love fight back.

This brings us to the most heartbreaking part of the book in my opinion.  Li-yan finds herself with child and knows the only choice that she has is to give her away.  I was hoping that this was the hardest thing that Li-yan would have to endure during her journey of life but unfortunately there is more hardship.  Without going into more detail, because reading it always half the surprise, I just want to say that this book was an emotional one for me.  To read the ups and downs of Li-yan’s life was heartbreaking as well as rewarding.