The Girl Who Wrote in Silk

The daughter of a successful Seattle businessman, Inara Erickson has planned to follow her father into international business. But when her aunt Dahlia dies, Inara inherits the family's rural estate on Orcas Island and makes a startling discovery. Hidden under a loose stair tread is a richly embroidered robe sleeve of blue silk, depicting scenes full of Chinese symbolism that seem to tell a story. Fascinated by the sleeve's beauty, Inara digs into its history and discovers a connection to Liu Mei Lien, a Chinese woman who lived on Orcas Island more than a century earlier.

In her debut novel, The Girl Who Wrote in Silk, Kelli Estes stitches a compelling dual narrative. Her depiction of 1880s Seattle draws on the well-documented eviction of hundreds of Chinese people from their homes and businesses throughout Washington State. Left entirely alone, Mei Lien manages to build a life for herself, but is haunted by her family's tragic fate. Meanwhile, Inara falls in love with the Chinese American history professor who helps her research Mei Lien's embroidery--but their relationship is jeopardized when Inara uncovers a shameful family secret. Inara is also working to transform Aunt Dahlia's old house into a boutique hotel, but she must convince her father (her primary investor) that she's capable of fulfilling her dream.

Though readers may predict the end of Inara's story, the historical narrative offers many more surprises. Like the multicolored silks on Mei Lien's sleeve, the novel's two stories eventually blend together to form a harmonious whole. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

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