Genre: Women's fiction
Publisher: Random House
In nineteenth-century China, in a remote Hunan county, a girl named Lily, at the tender age of seven, is paired with a laotong, “old same,” in an emotional match that will last a lifetime. The laotong, Snow Flower, introduces herself by sending Lily a silk fan on which she’s painted a poem in nu shu, a unique language that Chinese women created in order to communicate in secret, away from the influence of men. As the years pass, Lily and Snow Flower send messages on fans, compose stories on handkerchiefs, reaching out of isolation to share their hopes, dreams, and accomplishments. Together, they endure the agony of foot-binding, and reflect upon their arranged marriages, shared loneliness, and the joys and tragedies of motherhood. The two find solace, developing a bond that keeps their spirits alive. But when a misunderstanding arises, their deep friendship suddenly threatens to tear apart.I discovered this book on another book blog and knew I had to read it when I learned it depicted the tradition of foot binding. My previous concept of foot binding didn't even come close to the actual process....it is brutal. As you delve deeper into the story, you learn how critical this tradition is to the young girl's chances for a proper marriage. Marriage was for practical reasons and rarely resulted in emotional satisfaction. A laotong match would provide deep-heart love, something that would be lacking in Lily and Snow Flower's other relationships. This was a fascinating read about Chinese culture. It's very difficult to wrap your head around sometimes. If you've ever read an Amy Tan novel and enjoyed it I think you would like this one too. Due to the adult themes I wouldn't recommend this book for a middle schooler but think it would be appropriate for high school age. If you are interested in learning more about foot binding (as I was) I found a book blog with a review of this book in addition to photos of foot binding. Beware...the images may be disturbing to some so view at your own discretion. Lisa See has another book of interest to me, Shanghai Girls, that I'm adding to my TBR pile.