The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane is the latest book by author Lisa See. It’s focus is on family, the mother-daughter bond and different cultures set within the tea industry.
The story focuses on the Akha, one of the fifty-five cultural minorities from deep in the heart of the tea growing region of China. Their reclusive, rural way of life are vividly described, as are their beliefs which combine a focus on nature, superstition and strict, and sometimes harsh, rules.
The book has two story lines with the main story focusing on Li-yan, a young woman who was raised within a small Akha village. When she becomes pregnant outside of marriage, a strict taboo in her culture, she makes the heartbreaking decision to keep her pregnancy a secret and give her baby girl up for adoption to give both a better life. Li-yan’s life is peppered with struggle and success as she makes her way from living with the Akha to having success in the lucrative tea business and living a much more modern life than she could have ever dreamed. While she is a flawed character, you see a strength in Li-yan and you quickly became invested into her struggle, joy, sorrow and determination.
The secondary story follows the life of Haley, the baby Li-yan had given up, who was adopted by a California couple as a baby. Via letters and emails from Haley and Constance, Haley’s adoptive mother, See addresses issues some Chinese adoptees and adoptive parents face, namely their struggle to be seen as a family unit despite their physical differences, rude comments made by strangers etc. I liked that See focused on these issues and I found the discussion between Chinese adoptive kids quite interesting and eye-opening as they talk about their conflicting feelings about being given up for adoption — going from unwanted to highly treasured.
This is a well-written, absorbing read that is rich in culture but the true focus, the life of one woman’s strength, desire for redemption and determination to find her daughter, is what made this book for me. See illustrates the undeniable bond between mothers and daughters, both birth and adoptive, and would make an excellent book club pick.
The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane is available at WPL as a book, audiobook on CD, eAudiobook and eBook.
I’d recommend it for readers who enjoyed Shilpi Somaya Gowda’s The Secret Daughter.
— Laurie P.