Do you read most of your books on an e reader or do you prefer to hold an actual book? I am an e reader girl only because it is so convenient. I can read from my phone if I am sitting somewhere; the kindle is so easy to travel with and it holds all of my books.
With the recent rumblings of a travel ban on any electronics larger than a cell phone on planes coming from Europe. I didn’t want to get stuck having to pack my kindle in my checked bags if policies changed while I was recently traveling. I have to tell you, I loved having a book to hold. I used a favorite bookmark that has been hidden in my nightstand and enjoyed turning an actual page, smelling the scent of fresh paper and feeling the pages. I miss that with an e reader.
I finally finished The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See. I am grateful for book club for many reasons, but love that members choose books I may not pick to read, but thoroughly enjoy them.
The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane was one of those books; written by Lisa See and just published a few months ago. The story is set in China, up in the Yunnann Mountains and life in the Akha hill tribe. Li-Yan and her family live in a thatched roof hut, raised off the ground so the animals can live and get shade underneath their home. Life is based on traditions, the Akha tribe and Li-Yan’s family earn their living set around the seasons and the tedious task of picking tea leaves.
Li-Yan does as she is told, keeps her head down, but is allowed to tend school with the permission of her family and she shines. Her entire world is her family, school, and tea. Her mother is a midwife and she expects Li-Yan to follow in her footsteps.
When Li-Yan meets a boy from another tribe while attending school, she falls in love with young San pa. Following tradition there is a celebration held for several hill tribes, a coming out party of sorts for the young people. At the party, Li-yan and San pa go out into the forest. The young people of the tribe are encouraged to have sex before they marry with their chosen partner. Li-Yan’s parents have arranged her to marry another young man, but her eyes are set on San pa, who her family does not approve of or like.
Li-Yan becomes pregnant. San Pa has left his tribe to find a job, not knowing she is pregnant and he does not return for her before the baby is born. During her pregnancy, a stranger appears wanting to find a special blend of tea called Pu’er. The village works to help this stranger create the perfect blends of tea. Yet, mystery surrounds this stranger, some are leary of him and what he really wants from them.
When the time comes for Li-yan to give birth, she and her mother head into the forest, away from prying eyes. With her mother at her side, the baby is born and Li-Yan is forced to give the baby girl up for adoption. When San pa returns, he marries Li-yan and takes her with him to where he has a job.
Life for Li-yan changes in ways you won’t expect. Her life is filled with struggles, unbelievable pain, but also gives her a way out of the village.
I had a hard time getting through the first few chapters. The story was slow, if you find yourself feeling the same way, stick with it, hopefully you will be glad you did.
Tea is at the center of this novel, it isn’t just a drink, but an entire way of life. I love a good cup of tea and learned so much about the harvesting, blending and aging of tea leaves. Pu-er tea becomes the focus and now I am intent of finding a fabulous Pu-er tea to try.
Lisa See is masterful with her writing. She knows how to tell a story, weave the details in such a way you feel as you are there as a silent observer. Her characters have depth and soul, it adds such a vibrant richness to her stories.
I so enjoyed following Li-Yan’s life, the traditions and watching this strong and brilliant young woman shlep through her life when the odds are stacked against her.
Let me know what you think after you read the book.
Until next time,