Wednesday, January 22, 2020

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane - A Review

If you have been reading our reviews, you know that January is Tea Month!  It is also part of the Chinese New Year celebrations that will be happening all around the world on the 25th of  January.

tea girl on book cover

It's also time to share a new book that I truly enjoyed.  The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane caught my eye on two counts.  One, I love birds, so was interested in the address and the second was the ambiguity of the title.  Who goes around being known as the "Tea Girl" and why?

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane Book Review

Lisa See, the author has extensive knowledge of what is happening in the areas where China has taken over the lands that once belonged to some really isolated tribes.  Such are the Akha, that  lived in the high mountainous regions of Laos, Myannmar, Thailand and Yunnan province in China. 

map of Thailand and surrounding areas
                                                           Map courtesy of Google Maps

As with many indigenous tribes, they are unaware of the political struggles or the ramifications of being overtaken by another government.   They farm and cultivate their land for their own use. Daily life is difficult enough without worrying about politics.  Rice, tea and poppies are their main crops.  Opium, derived from their crops is sold to the outside world for medicines.  They themselves have used opium for medicines for centuries.  Tea is the other common denominator.  They grow tea and cultivate the leaves of trees that are hundreds of years old.  This tea is sought after by tea aficionados from around the world.

They are a land of people who have stayed together and lived according to the laws and customs of their "tribe".  They have their own language, yet they are encouraged to learn Mandarin and leave their language behind. Education is minimal unless they show a talent for learning.  Then maybe they have a chance at a better life.  The question is, "Who's ideas of a better life will they follow?" 

Each child can confirm their lineage for 7 generations.  This is one of the most important things they know for sure.  Girls and boys can recite their lineage and will do so when they find a mate.  The elders of the community will give their permission to marry, based on that lineage!  There will be no marriages allowed that are too close in family ties.

old artwork of boy and girl
Image from Wikipedia 

This story and it's people grabbed my attention and held it right to the very end.  I was fascinated by their customs and horrified by some of their practices too.  What really caught my interest though was how the people, because of their beliefs did things that we would consider so unacceptable.  The Akha, like many of the Asian peoples, have a profound wish that their first child be male. Because of China's one child law,  many girls are given up for adoption.   

Over the years, these girls have been adopted into American, Canadian and European households.  The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane finds herself caught up in a cultural tug of war.  Her adopted parents are caught up in it as well.  She does not look like them, She will never look like them!  Yet, her parents love her as if she were born to them like any other child.  

Her adoptive parents go through all the trials and tribulations involved when you have a child that is "different".  As many parents are aware, whenever something is NOT just so,  many questions are asked and need answers.  Yes, their child is adopted.  No, they don't know anything about why she was given up for adoption.  No, they are her parents and they love her unconditionally.  Yes, she asks questions all the time.  No we don't have the answers to all her questions.

What makes this story interesting is that bond between the birth mother and the daughter that she no longer knows.  I don't want to give anything away from this story, I want you to go and pick up the book and read it for yourself.  

My Conclusion & Final Thoughts

I learned so much about the Akha people and I also learned a lot about myself.  It was easy to put myself into the characters of this book.  What would I do?  How would I react?  How would I feel about being given away?  Where do my loyalties lie?  These are all questions you will find yourself asking as you are reading this book.

There are no right or wrong answers.  For the Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, there are lots of different answers and many roads that could be taken.  See how she deals with the way,  and the road,  her life has taken.  I promise, you will learn something about yourself in the pages of this book.

Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate, Ebay (EPN) and/or Esty (Awin) Affiliate, I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


  1. Always enjoy Lisa See books! Thanks for the review!

    1. Yes, it was my first time reading one of her books and I can honestly say it won't be the last. It was a really good story filled with lots of true information about a people I had never heard of before.

  2. Always interesting to read and learn about the lifestyle of different cultures. Then when a child from one culture is adopted and raised in an entirely different culture, we learn even more. This sounds like an interesting story, Olivia, and I agree the title is intriguing and perfect for National Tea Month.

    1. Thanks for your kind words. The book really is interesting on so many levels and does make you think about all the ramifications of cross culture identities and the implications. Personal histories of the children becomes difficult and yet part of their identity.

  3. Wow. This sounds really fascinating. Perfect time to read a book like this. Thanks for the introduction.

    1. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did. It really makes you stop and think.

  4. This sounds like a very enlightening book, Olivia. One that should cause all of us to stop, think and consider the ramifications of actions. I couldn't help but think how I'm not sure I could verbally list back 7 generations of my ancestry on both sides.

    1. As with many "tribes", lineage seems to be an important part of their heritage. Mind you, they also don't seem to live as long as the average person. They live a very hard life without much medical help. That may be good or not.

  5. Olivia, this sounds like an engrossing and very thought-provoking story. I’m adding it to my reading list, thanks to your excellent review!

  6. Oh Margaret I do hope you enjoy it as much as I did. I could not put the book down even when things were happening that I could not fathom. Tribal ways are not always easy to understand or read about.

  7. Sounds very interesting, you had me reading this review from beginning to end. I'm fascinated by isolated tribes etc, and how they manage to maintain their traditions and cultures (although many are being eroded of course these days). Love how they have to recite their lineage, that's fascinating. I can barely keep track of ours on paper!

    1. Barbara, I can't remember my own grandparents sometimes so that for me was really interesting. This book really makes you think about many things. Adoption of children from minority groups especially. How do you help them realize their own history. My own grandson doesn't have a problem with that as he was adopted into a Caucasian family as he is, but when different cultures mix the problem is real. Adoptive parents try their hardest to help, but there are still questions......

  8. I'm not sure if I've ever heard of this author. This book sounds interesting and like one I'd enjoy reading. Thank you for this review.

    1. Dawn, she has lots of books out there, but she is new to me too. I really enjoyed this book and will read more of what she has to write about in the future. Hope you like her too!


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