Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
I kept hearing wonderful things about this book, that it was a sure-fire book group pleaser and all that, and I tell you—it was! It’s a simple, spare novel about 19th century China when footbinding was still very much a part of women’s lives and friendships as well as marriages were arranged. Our narrator, Lily, had an “old sames” or laotong friendship arranged with Snow Flower, a young girl from a more auspicious family. Women had their own phonetic written language called nu shu and these girls shared their lives and thoughts over the years through letters (I automatically love novels about letters—just so you know). But misunderstanding and resentment begins to grow between them through their years as wives and mothers. Written with great sadness, Lily revisits her friendship with Snow Flower, slowly unfolding where they both steered wrong, where they both lost track of their true selves and one another. Not a book to finish on the bus—I had to choke back tears and regret that I didn’t give myself a proper, messy cry!