Wednesday, March 22, 2017

#BookReview: THE TEA GIRL OF HUMMINGBIRD LANE by Lisa See

Summary: 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.

Review: Someone once asked after watching Jeopardy with me why do I know such random things. My answer was that I loved to read. More than that, I love reading and learning new things, so Lisa See's latest was right on time. Coffee is too strong for my palate, but I love good tea. After reading The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, I know that what I'm drinking these days doesn't even begin to compare with what's found in the mountains of China.

I typically appreciate the care See takes with her major and minor characters, their surroundings and their story lines. I loved the way she delved into Li-yan's story from her time in the remote mountains to her adventure to the big city. Her rise and fall are written about in great detail so I found it easy to invest in her character.

On the other side of the coin was Haley, the daughter Li-yan gave up for adoption. I never really got into her story and found it to be a bit of a distraction from what I considered the real story, Li-yan's journey. Perhaps it was her Americanized life, but it never quite clicked for me.

Regardless, there is much to be learned from all of Lisa See's books and The Tea Girl is no exception. It's an engrossing story that had me sucked in from the beginning and stayed with me well after I finished reading it. Fans and newcomers to See's writing will certainly enjoy it.

384 p.
Published: March 2017
Disclaimer: Copy of book received from publisher; opinions are my own.



Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

#BookReview: TADUNO'S SONG by Odafe Atogun

Summary: The day a stained brown envelope is delivered from Taduno’s homeland, he knows that the time has come to return from exile. Arriving full of hope, the musician discovers that his people no longer recognize him, and no one recalls his voice. His girlfriend, Lela, has disappeared, abducted by government agents. Taduno wanders through his house in search of clues, but all traces of his old life have been erased. As he becomes aware that all that is left of himself is an emptiness, Taduno finds new purpose: to unravel the mystery of his lost life and to find his lost love. But soon he must face a difficult decision: to fight the power or save his woman, to sing for love or for his people.

Review: In the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, Orpheus, son of Apollo, plays the lyre and is an amazing singer. No man nor beast could resist his tunes, even inanimate objects swooned at the sound of his music. Orpheus falls for Eurydice, the Beyonce of their crew, right? And the two are married, but nothing good lasts forever. While trying to run from a man that's pursuing her in the forest one day, Eurydice gets bitten by a snake and dies instantly. Orpheus' happy tunes turned to grief and the world mourned with him until Apollo suggested he go to Hades and visit his beloved. Orpheus played his lyre so well that he even melted Hades' cold heart. In a stunning display of goodwill, Hades tells Orpheus he wsill allow Eurydice to leave Hades with him but under one condition, he must not turn around to look at her until they were back in the light. Orpheus is giddy! He and his beloved Eurydice will be together again soon, but he stumbles in his faith when he doesn't hear Eurydice's footsteps behind him and turns to make sure she's there. And then she's lost to him forever. She returns to Hades and he can't return to visit her because no one can enter Hades twice while alive.

I tell you that story to put you in the right frame of mind for Taduno's Song. It's a beautifully moving story of Taduno, a popular singer in Nigeria, who has been exiled for three months when he receives a letter from his beloved Lela telling him it's time for him to return home. Taduno has been living in exile because the government declared him and his music enemies of the state. Once the most popular singer in the country, he's all but been forgotten in the few short months that he's been gone. When the government destroyed his music, they destroyed citizens' ability to recognize and remember this man they loved so much, but Lela never forgot him.

Taduno finds himself in a strangely dystopic Nigeria where he knows everyone and no one knows him. However, in order to free Lela from the president who is holding her as prisoner, he'll need to remind the people of Nigeria, as well as her captors, of who he is. And like Orpheus, he's put to a test to secure her release and forced to make decisions that he can't and won't take lightly.

I wasn't sure of what to expect when I picked up Taduno's Song but I have to tell you that I loved it. It's a simple, yet powerful story of love. If I were a biblical scholar, I would delve into how Taduno's music reminded me of Jesus and his messages to his followers in his latter days leading up to his crucifixion, but I'm not a scholar and I don't want to make the mistake of thinking I am. Just know that Odafe Atogun packs a lot into this book and it's amazing.

240 p.
Published: March 2017