The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See

Last time I went to the library, it seemed like they hadn’t added much in the way of new books to the shelves that I hadn’t already read, so I found myself glimpsing at contemporary fiction titles, rather than science fiction and fantasy, which tend to be my go-to. The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane was the first book I picked up, and after skimming through the summary, I decided it looked like something I’d enjoy.

Following the life of a young girl known to her family only as “Girl”, we later learn her name is Li-Yuan, and she is of the Han-minority in modern day China. Growing up in the mountains that produce Pu’erh tea, it is all she’s ever known, along with the rituals, lifestyle, traditions, and superstitions her people cling tight to. When she falls in love with a young man who doesn’t match with her, the opportunities she’s brought herself through hard work, dedication, and education slip from her grasp and she’s forced to take the hard road. Her ‘human reject’ child, a daughter birthed outside the bond of marriage, should have been killed, as all human rejects are, but her mother helps her with a plot to take the child to a nearby orphanage and leave her behind.

Such struggles and suffering she faces in the days that follow, but she never gives up. Li-Yuan eventually finds herself on a path to success unlike any she ever could have predicted, and the scattered threads of her life weave into an unexpected tapestry so beautiful it’ll bring tears to your eyes.

I really enjoyed this book, though there were bits and pieces that felt a little out of place and forced against the flow of the narrative. See provided an alternating storyline that followed Li-Yuan’s daughter, Hayley, through her life in America, which was interesting, but at times it felt a little out of place. She did manage to weave it all together nicely in the end, but the ending felt slightly anticlimactic for my tastes. I would have liked to see even a chapter more to explore the culmination of an entire book’s worth of emotions as they played out, but the story ended rather abruptly.

Overall, decent read. I gave it four out of five stars.

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