In their remote mountain village, Li-yan and her family align their lives around the seasons and the farming of tea. For the Akha people, ensconced in ritual and routine, life goes on as it has for generations—until a stranger appears at the village gate in a jeep, the first automobile any of the villagers has ever seen.
The stranger’s arrival marks the first entrance of the modern world in the lives of the Akha people. Slowly, Li-yan, one of the few educated girls on her mountain, begins to reject the customs that shaped her early life. When she has a baby out of wedlock—conceived with a man her parents consider a poor choice—she rejects the tradition that would compel her to give the child over to be killed, and instead leaves her, wrapped in a blanket with a tea cake tucked in its folds, near an orphanage in a nearby city.
As Li-yan comes into herself, leaving her insular village for an education, a business, and city life, her daughter, Haley, is raised in California by loving adoptive parents. Despite her privileged childhood, Haley wonders about her origins. Across the ocean, Li-yan longs for her lost daughter. Over the course of years, each searches for meaning in the study of Pu’er, the tea that has shaped their family’s destiny for centuries.
A powerful story about circumstances, culture, and distance, The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane paints an unforgettable portrait of a little known region and its people and celebrates the bond of family.
Paperback, 371 pages
Published April 3rd, 2018
This is my second book by Lisa See, the first being The Island of the Sea Women (which I loved). This book has come highly recommended to me by my favorite book buddy Laurie aka TheBakingBookworm so I jumped into the audio version and was not disappointed.
One of the reasons I love historical fiction is the learning aspect, this one was full of not just tea history but the culture of Li-yan’s people. Their practices and superstitions and how strongly they influenced their lives.
It isn’t until halfway through the book that it turns into a dual narrative. So much was brought to the table from the adoptees' side, it gave me a better perspective at understanding the process and struggles they encountered.
I once had the privilege of going to an author event and meeting Lisa See. She talked about her research, travels to locales, meeting the people, it gave a great insight into her writing process. With this book the acknowledgments show again her dedication to her stories, her accuracy and passion just shine through. I have so much respect for what she does to be authentic and deliver such wonderful stories.
The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane is a coming of age story with so many layers - the relationship between mother & daughter, heritage, self-discovery and how good a great cup of tea is.
While I am a new Lisa See reader, already I have a nice little pile that I can’t wait to dig into.
This book was part of my 2020 reading off my shelf challenge.
click on cover to see my review