|The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane
There are two reasons I've loved all of See's other books: first of all is obviously the compelling characters and stories she weaves. I still find myself thinking back on Snow Flower and Lily, and the world of "laotongs" they introduced me to. I still wonder about the ghosts in china, like Peony, wandering and trying to find their way home despite the hard angles of the streets. I experienced the 1939 World's Fair, and the fear and blind hatred that came only a few years later. I followed Ruby to an internment camp and my heart broke. And of course I watched the multi-generational epic that was the life and family of May and Pearl. (I also delved into the fun mystery world of the Red Princess series.)
The other reason is the incredible detail with which she describes Chinese culture. The amount I learn, the feelings I experience, is spectacular. I was truly haunted while reading Dreams of Joy and seeing what life was like during the "Great Leap Forward" for those living in the far off farming communities.
And yet, I wasn't as absorbed in The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane as I usually am in See's work. Maybe I just wasn't in the right head space (after all I had just finished reading Stephen King's It, so I was feeling kind of cynical and jaded by all writers.) Or maybe I hyped it up in my mind too much, and gave the book an unfair bar to try to live up to. But the book felt slow this time. I definitely learned about a unique and rarely talked about culture of China- I constantly had to remind myself that the book starts off in the 1980's and isn't happening at the same time as Snow Flower or Peony.
I still recommend this book, but it doesn't feel as smooth as many of Lisa See's other works.