Saturday, February 7, 2009

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See

Summary: In nineteenth-century China, in a remote Hunan country, a girl named Lily, at the tender age of seven, is paired with a laotong, or "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 has written 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 the fan and compose stories on handkerchiefs, reaching out of isolation to share their hopes, dreams, and accomplishments. They both endure the agony of footbinding and together 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.

My Review: This is a story rich in the history of Chinese culture, yet the facts don't weigh down the story line. Lisa See has a way of immersing the reader in the novel. I didn't feel as if I were only learning about Chinese heritage but rather living it. The ceremony of footbinding actually left my arches aching. The lack of worth beheld upon women in this culture left me furious. The characters' loses made tears well behind my eyes. The love Lilly has for Snow Flower left me with a sense of joy and love as well.

The theme of this novel is friendship. Though Lily and Snow Flower have an arranged friendship, it is one that develops into a deep sisterly love. For Lily this is the one true love she has felt during her life. Their friendship is the one true joy they have in life. The girls spend each night they are together in the same bed. They travel to the temple together each year. When they are apart they communicate to each other in the secret language of nu shu, which is carried in either the special fan they pass back and forth or embroidered in handkerchiefs.

One day there is a terrible misunderstanding between the girls. Lily was always trying to "fix" Snow Flowers problems by offering advice which many times came across as abrasive. What Snow Flower really longed for was a friend to just listen to her woes and provide a soft landing spot. Snow Flower attempts to explain this to Lily but Lily misunderstands what Snow Flower is trying to say and lets her hurt feelings destroy the friendship. Lily eventually realizes that what hurt so much then did not have such a large impact on the friendship overall. She spends the rest her her life righting her wrongs caused by the misunderstanding. And in the end shows that love conquers all.

My Rating: 5 Stars, I LOVED it and will be recommending it to all

If I had to sum this book up in one sentence it would be: A remarkable, passionate, unforgettable tale of friendship that should be read with a box of Kleenex.

1 comment:

CurtisandMindy said...

the stack of books I need to read just keeps getting bigger and bigger. I love having this site so I can know which ones to move to the top!

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