Lily is haunted by memories - of who she used to be, and of a person
who defined her existence. All she has now is time, as she narrates the
tale of Snow Flower, and asks her gods for forgiveness.
In 19th-century China, when women and their daughters were foot-bound
and lived in almost total isolation, the women in one remote county
developed their own undisclosed code for communication: nu shu
("women's writing"). Some girls were coupled with laotongs, "old
sames," in emotional matches that lasted during their entire lives.
They painted letters on fans, embroidered sentences on handkerchiefs
and composed stories, thereby reaching out of their quarantine to share
their dreams, hopes, and accomplishments.
With the arrival of a fan made of silk on which Snow Flower has
composed for Lily a poem of preface in nu shu, their friendship is
imprinted and they become "old sames" at the age of seven. As the years
pass, through starvation and rebellion, they reflect upon their
arranged marriages, loneliness, and the delights and tragedies of
motherhood. The two find consolation, developing a bond
that keeps their spirits alive. But when a big misunderstanding arises,
their lifelong friendship unexpectedly threatens to tear apart.
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is a splendid realistic journey back to
an era of Chinese history that is as deeply moving as it is full of
sorrow. With the period detail and deep resonance of the book Memoirs
of a Geisha, this lyrical and emotionally charged book delves into one
of the mysterious of human relationships: female friendship.
Lisa See is the author of the books: Flower Net (an Edgar Award
nominee), The Interior, and Dragon Bones, as well as the critically
acclaimed biography On Gold Mountain. The Organization of Chinese
American Women named her National Woman of the Year 2002. She lives in
Los Angeles, California.