I read this four hundred page book in two days. Everything about this story is indicative of the reason I read in the first place. It educated me, it inspired me, it moved me. Most importantly it connected me to a place and a people group I knew nothing about. In fact, I didn’t know that I didn’t know, that is how revelatory this book was for me.
The story starts in the hill country of rural China, where the Akha tribe is mostly untouched by a changing world in the 1980’s. The protagonist is a ten-year-old girl, a precarious person to be back then in that culture. The setting was dynamic, the tea terraces set in the mountainside almost became their own character.
The young girl has an unwanted pregnancy, and instead of killing the baby girl which she gives birth to in secret (as is custom), she leaves the infant on the doorstep of an orphanage. The baby is taken to America in the wave of Chinese adoptions in the early 1990’s.
The narrative is divided into parts, the majority of it telling the story of the Akha girl in the tea mountains. The story is interspersed with epistolic episodes paralleling the childhood of the adopted child living in Los Angeles and her Chinese mother.
Never before have I had understood the importance of tea; both it’s cultural significance and it’s monetary value. I drank copious cups of the liquid gold while reading the book. I must learn more about tea!!
The book is both beautiful and spellbinding. A must read.