ARC Review: The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See

theteagirlofhummingbirdlanecoverOfficial Synopsis from Amazon: A thrilling new novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa See explores the lives of a Chinese mother and her daughter who has been adopted by an American couple.

Li-yan and her family align their lives around the seasons and the farming of tea. There is ritual and routine, and it has been ever thus for generations. Then one day a jeep appears at the village gate—the first automobile any of them have seen—and a stranger arrives.

In this remote Yunnan village, the stranger finds the rare tea he has been seeking and a reticent Akha people. In her biggest seller, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, See introduced the Yao people to her readers. Here she shares the customs of another Chinese ethnic minority, the Akha, whose world will soon change. Li-yan, one of the few educated girls on her mountain, translates for the stranger and is among the first to reject the rules that have shaped her existence. When she has a baby outside of wedlock, rather than stand by tradition, she wraps her daughter in a blanket, with a tea cake hidden in her swaddling, and abandons her in the nearest city.

After mother and daughter have gone their separate ways, Li-yan slowly emerges from the security and insularity of her village to encounter modern life while Haley grows up a privileged and well-loved California girl. Despite Haley’s happy home life, she wonders about her origins; and Li-yan longs for her lost daughter. They both search for and find answers in the tea that has shaped their family’s destiny for generations.

A powerful story about a family, separated by circumstances, culture, and distance, The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane paints an unforgettable portrait of a little known region and its people and celebrates the bond that connects mothers and daughters.


Genre: Historical Fiction, Fiction
Setting: 1988 – 2016 Spring Well Village which is located in the tea mountains of Yunnan, China

***I received an eARC copy of The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane from Scribner via NetGalley***


Review: Beautiful, stunning, educating historical fiction. Lisa See does it again! I truly loved this book.

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, the latest book by Lisa See, is fascinating fiction that tells the story of mothers and daughters, and also talks about tea production, specifically the production of Pu’er. With fully realized characters and a beautiful story, this is perhaps my favorite of Lisa See’s books, and one I will read again.

The book starts out in 1988 and we get a look at how the Akha people in the tea mountains of China live. We read about their beliefs and how they enforce their beliefs, and these sections are interesting. When the book first began, I wasn’t really sure if I was connecting to the story, but then a horrific childbirth scene happens that changes the trajectory of the novel, and I was hooked and could not put the book down.

Our main character is Li-yan, a young Akha girl who wants an education and to someday leave the mountains. Li-yan is a compelling heroine; one whom you root for and long for her to find her happiness. When Li-yan has her baby girl, and gives her up for adoption, the book starts to give glimpses into the baby’s life. The baby, who happens to be adopted by an American couple, is named Haley, and the book doesn’t give us too much of her life; it gives us just enough, and this was wise of Lisa See, as the more interesting story here is that of Li-yan, and Li-yan’s mother, So-sa.

Li-yan comes from a long line of tea pickers, and the history of tea making and production, and the making of teacakes was fascinating.

Li-yan’s mother, So-sa, was my favorite character. So-sa, a midwife and medicine woman was full of mystery and depth. As this book is about mothers and daughters, and while the relationship between Li-yan and Haley is a driving force of the book, the relationship between Li-yan and her mother was compelling and fascinating as well.

Without going into too much detail as to the story, the one complaint readers might have is that everything may be tied up too neatly at the end. The book starts out with the line “No coincidence, no story”, and I thought the story and the plotting was excellent and the tidying up of the plot didn’t bother me. It just felt right and truly satisfying.

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane will make fans of Lisa See very happy, and this is a book that book clubs will be discussing for years. I can hardly wait to discuss it with my own book club someday!

Bottom Line: Fascinating and compelling. A 5 star read!


The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane releases March 21, 2017.

Links to The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane on   Amazon |   Goodreads


Do you enjoy Lisa See’s books? Which one is your favorite? Will you be reading The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane? What is your favorite kind of tea? Have you ever tried Pu’er?


31 thoughts on “ARC Review: The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See

    1. Yes, I enjoyed Peony in Love! I thought all of the information about the afterlife was fascinating. I think this one is my favorite Lisa See book – before I read this one my favorite was Dreams of Joy. And Snow Flower and the Secret Fan was so good!

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        1. I’ve just read The Joy Luck Club and also a few of her short stories. I’ve got a bunch of her books on my shelf that I need to read at some point. I loved The Joy Luck Club – it’s one that I will re-read at some point!

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          1. Oh, then promise me you’ll see the movie! I cried!
            And The Bonesetter’s Daughter was interesting too…as well as The Kitchen God’s Wife. I really want to read The Valley of Amazement: I got it for Christmas the year it came out and I still haven’t read it. 😞

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            1. Oh yes – I loved the movie! I need to re-watch it; it was so good!
              I need to read those books! I’ve got copies of Bonesetter’s Daughter & Kitchen God’s Wife on my shelf that I just haven’t gotten to yet. Some day!! I think I checked out Valley of Amazement from the library and wasn’t able to get to it before it had to go back.

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    1. Yay! Her books are all so wonderful. I really enjoyed Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, and also Shanghai Girls / Dreams of Joy. She’s also written a few mysteries that I haven’t had a chance to read yet.

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    1. Well, the customs of the people are very interesting to read about. For instance, babies out of wedlock was a big no-no for this culture back in the late 80s / early 90s. The midwife is a very difficult job with difficult choices to make, for the sake of the entire village, and there are a few terribly heartbreaking scenes to read about here. For instance, there is one scene that changes how Li-yan sees her own future. She was planning on becoming a midwife like her mother, and they both realize that she can’t handle it, and then she relies more on schooling and education. The relationship between the mother and the daughter was really compelling here.

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        1. Yes, it does. However, as Li-Yan is Akha, Akha are considered an ethnic minority, and so did not have to follow the One Child Policy. I hadn’t realized that there were exceptions to that rule, so that was new information for me.

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  1. Just finished reading this book. I have to admit I found all of the tea growing facts dry reading. The cultural beliefs were interesting but disturbing to read about. Since my mother-in-law is a twin, I found their beliefs about twins horrifying. I also found it interesting when the girls adopted from China had such mixed feelings about it. I could see a book club getting into the mother-daughter relationship aspects and also the strong bias against females in the Asian culture. Ironic that now they realize they have all of these males with not enough females for them to marry. A fairly interesting read but not my favorite thus far in 2017.

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    1. Yeah, I think this would be a great book club/discussion book. That’s too bad that you found the tea sections dry – I really loved those sections and thought they were so informative! I don’t think I’ve read a book about tea production before. I really loved the ending of the book!

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