"The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane" by Lisa See

By Lisa See

Reviewed by Julia

ISBN 9781501154836

Sometime during the 1980's in a small mountain village in China, a young girl named Li-yan grows up in the traditional culture of the Akha, of Tibetan descent. One of many ethnic "hill" tribes of the country, the Akha of Spring Village in the Yunnan province are a proud, superstitious, ritual-infused and family-centered community who happen to live among the world's most ancient Pu'er tea trees. "The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane" by Lisa See is the story of Li-yan's dream-like journey towards her destiny as an educated, intelligent and westernized tea expert who remains in touch with the deep and magical inner spirit her Akha upbringing, and fiercely loyal A-ma (mother) instilled. An undercurrent of this strongly felt sense of purpose guides her through the survival of two excruciating life tragedies - the loss of a great love and the culturally-driven abandonment of her baby to an adoption center.  After these events, immersing herself in the knowledge and trade of Pu'er sets a fate-driven course for Li-yan to rediscover love and begin a search for her child, who has been adopted in America.  Author See provides intimate emotional depth in the character of Li-yan, and later, her daughter.  From the terraced villages and lush jungles of the Yunnan hillside, to the fast-paced poverty and wealth of Chinese cities and meandering neighborhoods of Pasadena, California, the varied settings are so expertly handled by our storyteller that it's easy for the reader to feel as though they are traveling along with characters through the years. "The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane" is an engrossing and fully-realized tale of mothers, daughters, the beliefs that divide and unite us, and the ties forged by fate, the human soul, and tea.

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