"Even now, after all these years, it is difficult for me to think about Mama and what I realized on that day. I saw so clearly that I was inconsequential to her. I was a third child, a second worthless girl, too little to waste time on until it looked like I would survive my milk years. She looked at me the way all mothers look at their daughters—as a temporary visitor who was another mouth to feed and a body to dress until I went to my husband’s home. I was five, old enough to know I didn’t deserve her attention..." (p. 12).This novel set in ancient China may seem remote to our western way of thinking, but we aren't really so different. The excruciating pain of foot binding to make women's feet small and somehow appealing to men is not really that different from wearing pointy-toed shoes with high heels that distort the bones in a woman's feet, making them grow crooked, and tilt her spine in a way that men may consider sexy, but sets up a woman for back trouble in later years. I quit wearing high heeled shoes many years ago.
I was delighted to learn that women figured out a way, in their isolation from each other, to communicate even without email or telephones. They made up their own women's writing, nu shu, that men were unable to read, and kept in touch by exchanging a silk fan with their secret messages painted on it. However different the lives of Lily and Snow Flower may seem to me, my friends and I sometimes have misunderstandings that spoil our friendships, just like women of that age. Having the freedom to visit or pick up a phone or email a friend to set things straight doesn't mean it will happen. It's easy to busy ourselves with superficial contacts on Facebook or Twitter and use that as an excuse to avoid the hard work of making deep friendships by keeping up with a few friends face to face.
Lily was haunted by memories of who she once was -- and of a person, long gone, who defined her very life. And so, with time on her hands, she recounts the story of Snow Flower. Lily feels remorse, but is it too late for forgiveness?
I rate Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See a 9 out of 10. It's an excellent novel.