And then I read a book like The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane and I’m simultaneously thrilled and terrified about the journey ahead if I’m to write my book.
This is my first Lisa See novel. I have so many to catch up on. The story begins in the 1990s in the mountains of Yunnan in southern China. A young woman, Li-yan, who grows up in a family whose livelihood is cultivating tea trees, comes from the Akha people, one of the hill tribes of the region—a people driven by tradition, but also by superstition.
When Li-yan becomes pregnant and the baby’s father has not returned in time to marry her, Akha tradition dictates that she must kill her child as a “reject,” but she can’t bring herself to do it. She leaves it with an orphanage and then leaves her home village to make her way in the world.
I don’t want to say more than that about the plot, because I’ll give too much away, but the novel takes us from that time in the early 1990s up to the present, in a beautiful story about identity, family, motherhood, destiny, and the magical world of pu’er tea.
The research behind the novel is immense (which is why it terrifies me for my own plans) but the joint stories of the tea industry and Li-yan’s saga are just wonderfully balanced throughout the book. I’m so looking forward now to seeing what I’ve missed in Lisa See’s previous novels.