The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See [in Booklist]
In a remote mountain village, the survival of an Akha tribe, one of China’s 55 ethnic minorities, depends on tea. Rigid traditions prohibit Li-yan from keeping her newborn. She saves her daughter by leaving her in a nearby town, wrapped in blankets with a tea cake that hints at her distinctive heritage.
Over the course of decades, Lisa See (China Dolls, 2014) reveals Li-yan’s exceptional story of departure and eventual return. Interspersed with Li-yan’s peripatetic experiences are those of her daughter, the titular tea girl, divulged by medical reports, letters, even the transcript of a group therapy session for adopted Chinese teens.
See, herself partly of Chinese ancestry, creates a complex narrative that ambitiously includes China’s political and economic transformation, little-known cultural history, the intricate challenges of transracial adoption, and an insightful overview of the global implications of specialized teas. The only possible flaw is that some may consider her magic-wand ending unbelievable.
As this is her first book since losing her own mother, bestselling author Carolyn See (to whom it is dedicated), See’s focus on the unbreakable bonds between mothers and daughters, by birth and by circumstance, becomes an extraordinary homage to unconditional love.