Genre: Contemporary Fiction
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I had no idea that there were so many ethnic minorities in China. And I'm not referring to peoples who immigrated from other countries, but people from China itself who were part of hill tribes and even look different than Chinese people. This novel really opened my eyes to that fact. It also reminded me and educated me that not all people in the world live with modern luxeries, and that in fact, some peoples still live much as their ancient ancestors would have. It's a odd realization, but this novel brought that to light for me. Our main character is just such an individual, but she seeks to break out of her isolated village community and its strict ways of living, that Li-yan has questioned since childhood. However, breaking away from the ways of her people proves heartbreaking for Li-yan as she loses what is most precious--her child.
The novel largely focuses on Li-yan's childhood, her connection to her maternal tea grove, and the loss of her daughter, who she was forced to give up for adoption when the child is born out of wedlock. The loss stays with her and Li-yan begins looking for her daughter as soon as she realistically able to, though she has little hope of finding her daughter, who was adopted by a family in America.
Later parts of the novel outline the life of her daughter, her disconnection from her adoptive parents, and her desire to meet her birth mother. The novel also highlights the social issues with the now abandoned one child law of China.
The novel is well written, and engaging from beginning to end. I can't pretend to understand all the cultural implications touched upon in this novel, but I enjoyed the journey of the main characters and the connection they had to the land and to each other. It is very much a story about mothers and daughters, and subtlety but beautifully done.