April: “The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane” by Lisa See


The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See

If you have been living in a perpetual state of anxiety checking the news constantly on television and on your cell-phone then I have the relief you are looking for. Lisa See’s new novel, The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, is a great book that took me to another world for a few hours. If you are a lover of See’s Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Shanghai Girls or any of her plethora of historical fiction you will not be disappointed. Kirkus Reviews called it a, “riveting exercise in fictional anthropology.” Lisa See’s meticulous research into China’s Akha minority’s cultural history and tea production illuminate a story that encompasses the mother-daughter bond, the changing roles of women, the rural and globalized societies in modern China, and transracial adoption. See has a gift of telling stories about little known regions or histories, but what holds us spellbound is her powerful female characters that the reader can’t help but empathize with and root for throughout the novel.


High in the mountains of Yunnan province, Li-yan and her family align their lives around the seasons and the farming of tea. They are members of the Akha ethnic minority, and life is lived as it has been for generations. When a stranger appears at the village gate in a jeep, the first automobile any of them has ever seen, he brings with him the modern world, which changes everything. Li-yan falls in love with a boy her parents don’t like, has a baby out of wedlock, and then abandons the infant, 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, while across the ocean Li-yan longs for her lost daughter. As the Booklist reviewer wrote, “See’s focus on the unbreakable bonds between mothers and daughters, by birth and by circumstance, becomes an extraordinary homage to unconditional love.”


Lisa See is the New York Times bestselling author of The Tea Girl of Hummingbird LaneSnow Flower and the Secret FanPeony in LoveShanghai GirlsChina Dolls, and Dreams of Joy, which debuted at #1. Ms. See is also the author of On Gold Mountain, which tells the story of her Chinese American family’s settlement in Los Angeles. Ms. See was honored as National Woman of the Year by the Organization of Chinese American Women in 2001 and was the recipient of the Chinese American Museum’s History Makers Award in fall 2003.

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