Way back in July, I read a book – The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See. It has now been almost 6 months since I read it, but I still have the same weird feeling as I write about it now as when I read it. This review has been put off for a long while and I thought I better get to it before the New Year.
The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane’s first words “No coincidence, no story” are by themselves a tad bit haunting. If one dwells on that phrase, it brings about a lot of thought – introspective and otherwise. This book is definitely not a light read and is one of the most reflective reads I have read this year… Also, one of my favourites of 2017.
Li-yan and her family are a part of a remote Yunnan village and belong to the Akha tribe. They make their living with tea. (If you do not like tea, drop the book or you will want to try a cup even as you read.) Li-yan’s A-ma (mother) is a midwife and while helping her, Li-yan learns a lot about life, its injustices. The Akha traditions described are at times heartbreaking, but it is what is – their way of life. Li-yan goes to school, and upon encouragement from her teacher wants to do better than others. Her education comes to help the village when a businessman from Hong Kong comes along in search of aged tea – Pu’er – as he calls it. The village prospers and along with it the people.
“If you don’t love tea, you can’t make good tea.”
A-ma and Li-yan have their own secrets. A secret grove of tea trees that have been handed down through centuries from mother to daughter. Li-yan gives birth to her daughter here. Since the child would have been a human reject as per Akha traditions, Li-yan leaves her at the doorstep of an orphanage. Through time we see a widowed Li-yan making her name in the business of tea, marrying again and moving to America and having a son. Embracing modern times and still upholding Akha traditions; balancing her new life and yet yearning for the daughter that she gave up. The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane does end with Li-yan meeting her daughter, all’s well that ends well after all.
That being said, The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane is not your average feel-good book. Like I mentioned before, it is immensely reflective. The writing is what makes the book such a joy to read, for it is neither reverent nor lacking. It is a very matter of fact telling of Li-yan’s tale. But when it comes to tea – The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane takes on a life of its own. It evokes a rather lascivious need to sample and savour the flavour of tea – in whatever form one can get it. While one may just about be happy with a cup of chai, there is the greed induced that one can’t ignore. After reading The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane I do wonder if I can somehow get my hands on some Pu’er and savour it.
You can grab a copy here – Amazon
The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See
My rating: 5 of 5 stars