Have you ever loved books by an author to such a degree that the book itself wasn’t enough? Like you resonated with the author behind the book and just had to know more? I’ve attended book events presented by New York Times Bestselling authors, Chitra Divakaruni, Karen White, Kristin Higgins and more…
My love affair with Lisa See’s books dates back to Snowflower and the Secret Fan, Peony In Love, Shanghai Dreams, Dreams of Joy and connects to the unforgettable years of growing up in British Hong Kong. Through Lisa’s historical fiction, I’m able to understand now what I couldn’t back then. I’m not just talking about the ancient practices of foot-binding, holding back women from pursuing education and rituals and traditions that align with Chinese culture and practices. I’m referring to people’s behavior patterns and why we do what we do.
Yes, ‘WE’ because in some way we are all living in the present because of what happened in the past.
Which brings me to why I attended Lisa’s speaking event at Barnes and Noble, California, a third time. I’ve heard Lisa address fans twice before in Georgia and loved every minute of her insightful revelations behind the books, writing process and life as a writer. The level of detail she executes with research is astounding. How on earth does she remember all the facts, sync them together and then let the characters dance on the page so effortlessly entwined in that era? There’s never a dull moment on the page or the entire story. Never a pause in the forward progression of action that would cause you to put down the book. Any moment of deep introspection which make you stop and take a breath are to inhale the depth of characters and their plight.
Which is precisely why the bookstore was packed that evening—just one of many during Lisa’s eight-week long summer book tour. The audience didn’t just fill the area cordoned off for Lisa’s event. People crowded behind bookshelves—serving as make-shift walls—on tiptoes to catch a glimpse of this amazing author. They squeezed along aisles between chairs and bookshelves to hear and see Lisa talk and then queued up for a personalized signed copy of Lady Tan’s Circle Of Women despite the snaking long line.
Lisa described how the idea to write this book came about during Covid. Lisa was on a book tour when the tour got canceled and she returned home. One day Lisa noticed a book that had been on her shelf for ten years and out of curiosity she decided to crack open the pages. The insights she gleaned about the ancient practices of medicine in China, remedies, illnesses, doctors and lack of women doctors planted the seed of a story that blossomed. Just like with all her previous research, Lisa explored in depth and dove right in–to fifteenth century China.
The leading character, Yunxian’s plight begins with the loss of her mother, continues with her education in medicine, a forced arranged marriage, followed by the loss of a trusted friend. The larger hurdle hits when Yunxian must break free of traditions to medically treat women and girls across all levels of society. Then… one sentence made me realize the depth of Yunxian’s character and journey ahead,
“And, if I could become a doctor one day, then I might be able to help the mother of a girl like me.”
That sentence resonates with all of us. We cannot undo the past, bring back the dead or rewind time. I already know that Yunxian will have to find inner healing from her mother’s death by curing patients in the future. Lady Tan’s Circle Of Women tests the power of knowledge, friendship and women empowering themselves to help other women.
I would love to tell you more, but that would give away a story that cracked the New York Times Bestsellers List instantly after release. The book showcased on Times Square, New York, was received by the world with open arms and continues its word-of-mouth travels through major networks, media and book club grapevines.
Lisa See’s powerful talk ended with a note to remember Yunxian for who she was, the advancement she brought to the world and the strength we can draw from her journey. Lisa’s humble request to keep the spirit of this courageous woman alive by reading Lady Tan’s Circle Of Women and sharing with others clearly transcends fiction and his-tory.
Whether it’s his-tory or her-story, Lady Tan’s Circle of Women is a powerful tale. All we have to do is listen one page at a time.
Now, that’s not too much to ask, is it?