I normally love to read books and only listen to them while we’re on a drive of more than four hours.
This past week, I listened to “The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane” by Lisa See, published in 2017.
I highly recommend this book. A friend of mine in Santa Barbara only listens to books, she never reads. That’s because she is constantly moving and busy. She never takes a break from work around the house, yard, cooking or her business sewing for interior designers until bedtime. She also works at a school during the week. (She’s exhausting to be around!) She finished this book and said it was “so good!”
It was! I have read other Lisa See books including the novel “Shanghai Girls” and her family’s biography, “On Gold Mountain: The One-Hundred-Year Odyssey of My Chinese-American Family.”
I’m a Lisa See fan.
I decided to experiment and listened to this book, rather than read it. It seemed like cheating, but I enjoyed it. The narration was good and I wasn’t hung up by trying to pronounce Chinese words in my head.
Here’s an overview of the story from Lisa See’s website:
From #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa See, a moving story about tradition, tea farming, and the enduring connection between mothers and daughters.
In their remote mountain village, Li-yan and her family align their lives around the seasons and the farming of tea. For the Akha people, ensconced in ritual and routine, life goes on as it has for generations—until a stranger appears at the village gate in a jeep, the first automobile any of the villagers has ever seen.
The stranger’s arrival marks the first entrance of the modern world in the lives of the Akha people. Slowly, Li-yan, one of the few educated girls on her mountain, begins to reject the customs that shaped her early life. When she has a baby out of wedlock—conceived with a man her parents consider a bad match—she rejects the tradition that would compel her to give the child over to be killed, and instead leaves her, wrapped in a blanket with a tea cake tucked in its folds, near an orphanage in a nearby city.
As Li-yan comes into herself, leaving her insular village for an education, a business, and city life, her daughter, Haley, is raised in California by loving adoptive parents. Despite her privileged childhood, Haley wonders about her origins, and across the ocean Li-yan longs for her lost daughter. Over the course of years, each searches for meaning in the study of Pu’er, the tea that has shaped their family’s destiny for centuries.
A powerful story about two women separated by circumstance, culture, and distance, The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane is an unforgettable portrait of a little known region and its people and a celebration of the bonds of family.
I loved the characters, the drama, learning about the different ethnic groups of China, how the Akha people believe in spirits and how they were untouched from the modern world until after the Cultural Revolution. I also learned about tea farming, connoisseur’s, and the many health properties of tea.
After I finished listening to “The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane,” I decided to try another book on Audible. I chose an Elin Hilderbrand novel called “The Castaways.” I have to confess that it did not work for me to listen to it. It’s about four couples and I can’t keep the characters straight, not did I care about them.
I’m not sure if it’s the format of listening to a book that made the Lisa See book so accessible and enjoyable — and it doesn’t work for Elin Hilderbrand. Or, maybe I don’t like the second book as much even if I read it?
What are your thoughts of reading versus listening to books? What’s your preference and why?