Snow Flower and the Secret Fan -- 3 Stars
This novel is one of pain and love, two things most common to all women. We follow Lily and her laotong, old same, Snow Flower. The two girls are matched much like a marriage and will be friends for their lives with a deeper love then a man and a woman. They endure foot binding, a custom to make a girl's feet very small and thus shows her strength and obedience. A woman's worth is only secure when she produces a son, but with a laotong you are worth much more.
We follow these two women through their lives, through their joys and pains, triumphs and sorrows. We listen to Lily as she tells their story and it is full of so much, yet not enough.
Lisa See has trouble making me care about the characters. I almost tossed the book aside but pushed myself to the end. I was afraid to miss something, the way other people have raved about the title. I was glad that I did. Without giving anything up, the final chapters were perfect. All the turmoil finally comes to a head and we see true redemption and true friendship. More then that, we are shown how strong women truly can be, and are.
While there are several things in this novel that I disagree with, I understand that they are all parts of ancient Chinese culture. Arranged marriages are never a guarantee of a happy lifetime. Foot binding is simply barbaric and telling your daughter she is worthless is horrifying. While I realize these are all parts of a culture, it doesn't mean that I agree with it.
Honestly, my biggest problem with this book is the characters! Lily is pathetically selfish and is given much, so much that she becomes a "holier then thou" type. Her redemption at the end is a case of too little too late. And yet... the memories of my own past came flooding back. All the times I should have done something, could have done something and didn't. I cried at the end though I'm not sure if I was weeping over the book or myself.