Monday, April 17, 2017

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane

I am a fan of Lisa See and had to pick up her latest novel.  The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane follows the life of Li-Yan, called Girl by her family as she is the only daughter in her family.  She is a member of China's Akha ethnic minority. They are animistic in belief and Ms. See covers their traditions in great detail. They live in the countryside in a remote village without electricity and running water in stark contrast to the majority of people in 1980s China and they all pick tea leaves for their livelihood.

Girl walks for hours each day with her family in order to pick pu'er tea leaves all day that are then sold to a tea collective.  Her mother is also the area's midwife and Girl is expected to learn this skill too. She is one of her school's best students and hopes to advance to higher education if her family will let her.  Girl wants to grow up and leave her village for a better life.

One day a stranger arrives looking for the rare pu'er tea.  Girl is asked to translate for her village leaders. Also at this time Girl begins to question the traditions of her village and after having a child out of wedlock refuses to kill the infant which society requires her to do. She drops her infant off near an orphanage in a nearby town and subsequently leaves her village to pursue her education and career. After getting reacquainted with the father Girl tries to get her daughter back but she has already been adopted by a California couple.  Both mother and daughter search for a stable family life through those they meet through their study of pu'er tea.

I loved this story.  While I am attracted to Asian fiction it still has to be well written to capture my imagination.  The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane does just that with loveable characters and a compelling plot.  There is alot of information about the tea industry both locally and internationally which was enjoyable to read about.  The author also writes about her Chinese culture with its family traditions, government practices, religious superstitions, and ancestor worship practices.

A fabulous read!

1 comment:

  1. Interesting... not one I'd pick to read myself, but it does sound good.