by Lisa See
A bit different from some of Lisa See's other fiction set in China, in that this one takes place in the years 1988 to 2015. Li-yan, a member of the Akha ethnic minority in the mountainous Yunnan Province in China, is ten years old when the story starts. The reader learns a lot about Akha customs and beliefs, as well as about tea, especially pu'er, a valuable type of fermented tea.
At 17, Li-yan has a daughter out of wedlock, taboo in her culture, and abandons the baby at an orphanage. When she later marries the father, they try to reclaim the baby, who of course has been adopted by an American couple, who name her Haley. Haley's story becomes a theme in the book. At times, I found parts of Haley's story jarring when it interrupts that of Li-yan, who also sees big changes in her life. Furthermore, the book's ending feels abrupt and rather predictable.
All in all, I didn't like this book as much as I've liked others by Lisa See, perhaps only because the first two parts of the book (through 1995) read like historical fiction, due to the rural settings. Part three quickly jumps ahead to 2004 and more modern times in China and elsewhere. Nevertheless, I'm still glad I read this book.
© Amanda Pape - 2017
[This book was borrowed from and returned to my local public library.]