About the book
The story is set in China where a Chinese woman LI-Yan lives in the tea growing mountains of Yunnan Mountains in China. A community that is laden with lots of rituals and superstitions in their culture. Li-Yan has a baby and has to give her up by leaving her at a nearby orphanage. Her daughter Haley is later adopted by a couple. Later Li-Yan makes a living outside the village marketing and selling the Chinese Special tea Pu-er
The superstitions and rituals of this community left me wondering they were so unfair to the women and girls. These rituals are similar in comparison to African culture, some communities viewed twins as a bad omen (The Igbo of Nigeria and the Bukusu of Kenya) while other communities (Yoruba of Nigeria) viewed them as blessings and were highly honored. These treatment of twins in the Chinese culture and in African cultures that shunned them is one of the aspects of this cultures that I do not admire.
The experience Li-Yan had in the sell and market of tea gave me nostalgic memories of working in Kenya’s largest Tea Agency; Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) where I learnt so much about the origin, production, sale and marketing of tea. In addition some of the positive and negative aspects of the tea business in Kenya. This was somewhat similar to what I encountered in the book. The Chinese Pu-er tea appears to be well sort after and very popular. China is the largest producer of tea in the world while Kenya is the 3rd largest tea producer.
Something else that stood out for me in the book is how Haley’s story was told from the different aspects. It enriched the story because her story was developed from another angle that is different from the first person or third person narration. We learnt more about her from the letters and the therapy sessions. This enhanced my curiosity about her.
The book centers majorly on tea production, the life of three mothers and their relationships with their daughters and the culture and rituals of the Chinese People.
“When a son is born, let him sleep on the bed, cloth him in fine clothes and give him jade to play. When a daughter is born, let her sleep on the group, wrap her in common wrappings and give her tiles to play with (Book of Songs 1000-700 BC)”