The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane is my December book club pick. My hold came available very quickly, from the library, so I “read” it early (via audio book). It is historical fiction set in the remote village of Yunnan where the Akha villagers support unique customs and survive by harvesting tea.
Li-Yan has grown up in the Akha tradition, as the daughter of the local midwife, helping her family with the tea harvest. The local school master realizes that she is bright and she becomes the first educated woman in her village. When a foreigner arrives, in search of rare tea, the lives of the villagers change as modern ways are introduced. Li-yan bears a daughter, out of wedlock, and rather than follow village tradition, she abandons the child along with a tea cake (which is part of her heritage) at an orphanage. These were the days when Chinese women were restricted to having only one child so many female babies were adopted to families outside of China.
The narration of the novel was well done but I did get frustrated with the subjugation of women in the village. The author has researched adoption practices, the Akha people and the history of tea and weaved it with a fictional story which kept me occupied during my commutes.
It was interesting to learn more about the history of tea and I look forward to trying the fermented Pu’erh tea in my David’s Tea Advent Calendar this December.