Title: The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane
Author: Lisa See
Narrators: Ruthie Ann Miles, Kimiko Glenn
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio, March 2017
Format: 12 discs, 14 hours and 9 minutes
Genre: fiction, historical fiction
Summary: Li-yan belongs to a hill tribe in the Yunan Province of China and is Akha, one of China's 55 ethnic groups . When she becomes pregnant before getting married, she gives birth to her baby secretly, and makes sure it gets to the orphanage in the nearest town. She does this because her tribe's law is that she must kill the child for the good of the tribe.
Thoughts: I always write summaries as simply and concisely as possible because when I am looking for a book to read I always feel as if the summary just tells me too much. When writing this summary, it was very difficult to decide what exactly to include. This novel encompasses so much! It is the story of Li-Yan, told in first person narrative, from age 7 years through her late 30's. Li-Yan struggles with balancing her heritage with the modern world. Through Li-Yan's story the reader learns all about the Akha- their customs, rituals, beliefs, day to day lives, and how their ways have changed over the last 30 years. The reader also learns about what was going on in the cities of China during this span of time as Li-Yan moves outside her village. Li-Yan's story is both disturbing and heart-breaking at times, but the author writes in such a respectful, non-judgemental way that the story becomes emotionally powerful rather than upsetting. There is also the story of Haley, Li-Yan's daughter who was adopted by a married white couple from southern California when she was a baby. Haley's story is told in many different ways and by different people including Haley herself. Through Haley's story we learn about what it is like to be a Chinese girl adopted by a white family in the United States. Many of these girls are grateful to have been adopted, but angry that their birth parents did not want them. They also struggle with the question of who they are because they look different than their adoptive family members. Tea, in particular pu-er tea, brings everything together. The reader learns all about the history of tea, tea culture, the growing and production of tea, and the tea economy today. Tea is a part of both Li-Yan and Haley's lives.
The author's strong characters seem so real and she writes so that the reader feels he or she knows the characters intimately. Even the secondary characters are very well developed and have depth. The author's writing style is beautiful- places are brought to life and the descriptive details she adds easily bring the reader into the story. The research the author did to create this novel was obviously extensive and she shares the knowledge she gained with the reader adding so much to this book. If the reader is not interested in details about tea, this may weigh them down and it may feel as if the story does not move along quickly enough. I was very interested in learning all about tea, the Akha, and China. Throughout the book is the theme of mother / daughter relationships. The story is told slowly, a little at a time, and ends with the climax. It was refreshing to read a book that doesn't follow a morecommon pattern of story telling. I just loved the ending. It was not drawn out, yet everything came together.
The narrators were excellent and there were other actors performing the parts of the secondary characters. All spoke clearly and at a good pace and brought the characters to life. The only thing I did not like about the audio book was that some of the tracks were over 20 minutes long and it was hard to find my place if I popped the CD out of the player.
This was a powerful book that stays with you. I finished it a week ago and still find myself thinking about it. It would be an excellent book for a book club. The author has great book club questions and ideas to enhance your meeting on this book here. I highly recommend this compelling book.
I have done some reviews on pu-er tea in the past and have been drinking it over the past couple of weeks, but don't have any others to review. Here are the links to the pu-er tea reviews I have done. They are at the bottom of each post:
Naked Pu-erh from Art of Tea
Golden Pu-erh from Art of Tea
Immortal Nectar from Art of Tea
Coconut Cacao Pu-erh from Art of Tea