The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane

November 2017 – Nancy

Nancy’s Pick
November 2017

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane
Lisa See
Scribner March 21, 2017

Lisa See’s book, The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, is fiction, but with detailed historic facts that tell the story of family, identity, and motherhood. The setting is centered around a little known world high in the Yunnan mountains in China. The author tells of a young girl, Li-yan, and her family who are members of the Akha ethnic minority. The Akha are tea growers who live their lives practicing the tea-growing rituals of their ancestors. Li-yan’s family must learn to adapt to the outside world when tea merchants arrive at their remote village looking for a rare tea called Pu’er.

Li-yan experiences many Akha Law traditions that shock her and affect her entire life. These events are the Akha Law actions toward twin births, her marriage to San-pa who is not of the Akha membership, and the punishment by Akha Law to her child.

Li-yan’s mother A-ma is a midwife who has her own land and whose tea trees are in A-ma’s word “sacred.” It is important for Lin-yan to keep the land and ancient trees a secret from everyone including her father, other family members, and the villagers.

Almost all the characters in the novel have secrets that unfold throughout the story. Li-yan’s secret about her child affects her life and all relationships.

The story of Lin-yan tells the importance of Pu’er tea to the Akha culture and their economy. The surprise in the book is the importance of the secret land, the link to the history of tea and a reunion for Li-yan!

Lisa See is the author of many bestselling novels and The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane is one to add to a reading list.