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The Girl Who Wrote in Silk
Cover of The Girl Who Wrote in Silk
The Girl Who Wrote in Silk

A USA Today Bestseller!

"The Girl Who Wrote in Silk is a beautiful story that brought me to tears more than once, and was a testament to the endurance of the human spirit and the human heart. A powerful debut that proves the threads that interweave our lives can withstand time and any tide, and bind our hearts forever."-Susanna Kearsley, New York Times bestselling author

Inspired by true events, Kelli Estes's brilliant and atmospheric debut serves as a poignant tale of two women determined to do the right thing, and the power of our own stories.

The smallest items can hold centuries of secrets...

Inara Erickson is exploring her deceased aunt's island estate when she finds an elaborately stitched piece of fabric hidden in the house. As she peels back layer upon layer of the secrets it holds, Inara's life becomes interwoven with that of Mei Lein, a young Chinese girl mysteriously driven from her home a century before. Through the stories Mei Lein tells in silk, Inara uncovers a tragic truth that will shake her family to its core — and force her to make an impossible choice.

"A touching and tender story about discovering the past to bring peace to the present."— Duncan Jepson, author of All the Flowers in Shanghai

A USA Today Bestseller!

"The Girl Who Wrote in Silk is a beautiful story that brought me to tears more than once, and was a testament to the endurance of the human spirit and the human heart. A powerful debut that proves the threads that interweave our lives can withstand time and any tide, and bind our hearts forever."-Susanna Kearsley, New York Times bestselling author

Inspired by true events, Kelli Estes's brilliant and atmospheric debut serves as a poignant tale of two women determined to do the right thing, and the power of our own stories.

The smallest items can hold centuries of secrets...

Inara Erickson is exploring her deceased aunt's island estate when she finds an elaborately stitched piece of fabric hidden in the house. As she peels back layer upon layer of the secrets it holds, Inara's life becomes interwoven with that of Mei Lein, a young Chinese girl mysteriously driven from her home a century before. Through the stories Mei Lein tells in silk, Inara uncovers a tragic truth that will shake her family to its core — and force her to make an impossible choice.

"A touching and tender story about discovering the past to bring peace to the present."— Duncan Jepson, author of All the Flowers in Shanghai

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  • From the book

    Prologue

    Sunday, February 7, 1886-just past sunset

    Puget Sound, Washington Territory

    Mei Lien felt the steamship shudder beneath her feet and wondered if the quaking of her own body had caused it.

    "You don't have a choice," Father hissed. Before she knew what was happening, he'd prodded her to the ship's cold metal railing. "Climb up, Mei Lien."

    She looked at him in horror. She'd always obeyed him without question. But this? "I can't." She pressed a hand to where her heart pounded in her chest and felt the coin purse under her bindings. "Please!"

    His face hardened. "Do not disappoint me, Daughter. Do it. Now!"

    His tone made her fear recede long enough for her to hear her own voice of reason. It told her Father was right. She had no other choice.

    Shaking, she climbed up on the railing to sit at the top, her hands holding tight to the wet metal bar. Beneath her right palm, she felt a pockmark where someone had painted over an old chip. She wondered if that was the last thing she'd touch before death.

    Before Mei Lien could say another word, Father placed his palms at the small of her back and pushed her off the steamship.

    "Bàba!" she screamed, the words echoing as she fell. Her breath left her as she hit the bitterly cold water. Icy fingers dragged her into the void below.

    Somehow she found the strength to fight. Kicking and clawing at the water, she dragged herself upward, her lungs on fire.

    As her head broke through the surface, she dragged in lungfuls of air between racking coughs. When she managed to wipe the water from her eyes with her fingers, she saw the ship passing dangerously close. Father stood at the railing but his back was to her, as if he hadn't just cruelly pushed his only child to what could be her death.

    A wave splashed over her face, and she felt herself sinking again. This time her limbs felt stiff and her muscles were starting to cramp in the near-freezing water. Instinct took over, making her feet kick as she dragged her body away from the ship with her arms, as Father had taught her all those years ago. She shut off her mind and swam, with no idea of what she might be heading toward.

    Mei Lien's head pounded from the cold. With each kick, her limbs ached to rest, to give in to the pull from below that promised ease and warmth.

    She looked one last time toward the ship, but it was little more than a distant blur of light growing smaller.

    Her family was gone from her. Her life was gone from her. If she gave in to the pull of the water, what would it matter?

    She stopped trying to fight and let herself fall into the water's frigid grasp, willing it to carry her to the spirit world. She even saw death coming. It rose out of the water as a huge, black sea monster, one glaring yellow eye boring into her aching head. Just as the monster grabbed her, she felt the void take over her mind.

    She welcomed it.

About the Author-
  • Kelli Estes lived in the deserts of eastern Washington state and Arizona before settling in the Seattle area, which she loves so much she plans to forever live near the water. She's passionate about stories that help us see how the past shaped who we are today, and how we all have more in common than not. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her family. This is her first novel.
Reviews-
  • Kirkus

    In a house on Orcas Island, the stories of two young women unfold: a 19th-century Chinese-American and a recent college graduate trying to piece together a mystery left behind.Inara Erickson, just out of business school, has a corporate job at Starbucks waiting for her. She just needs to settle her aunt's estate before she steps into adulthood. Aunt Dahlia has left her Rothesay, the family compound on Orcas Island in the Puget Sound. But when Inara gets there, she begins to take Dahlia's old dream of turning the place into a hotel seriously. While poking around, she finds a piece of elaborately embroidered cloth hidden in a stair tread. She returns to Seattle with two objectives: to find out more about the embroidered sleeve and to convince her father to finance her conversion of Rothesay into a boutique hotel. Alternating with Inara's story, Mei Lien's tragic tale comes to light. Born in Seattle, she lives with her father and grandmother above their dry goods shop until public sentiment turns violent. On the tail of the Chinese Exclusion Act, her whole neighborhood is forced onto a boat for China. But the ship's racist owner, Inara's great-great-great grandfather Duncan Campbell, has other plans-to dump his human cargo into the sea. Mei Lien is rescued by Joseph McElroy and brought to his homestead on Orcas. They fall in love, marry, and have a son but are ostracized-and worse yet, Duncan Campbell is their neighbor. Meanwhile, Inara is beginning her own romance with Daniel Chin, an academic who's helping her research the origin of her embroidered cloth. When Inara discovers that her ancestor, soon to be commemorated in a city park, is a mass murderer, she has to decide whether to reveal her secret. Though there are a few unnecessary coincidences, Estes' debut is a pleasing blend of historical fiction and contemporary drama. COPYRIGHT(1) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    Starred review from December 1, 2015
    Estes's debut novel alternates between the turn of the 20th century and today, when Inara Erickson finds a beautifully embroidered sleeve hidden in the staircase at her newly inherited island estate. Intrigued, she asks a professor of Asian history to help her find out more and together they discover a century's worth of secrets, horror, and love stitched onto the delicate sleeve. As they unravel the mystery behind the embroidered story, alternating chapters reveal the sorrowful life of Mei Lein, a Chinese girl who left behind her story stitched on silk. VERDICT Loosely based on historical fact, this eye-opening and beautifully written novel will captivate listeners. Beautifully narrated by Emily Woo Zeller, who helps bring the story alive with her delicate, yet masterful voicing.--Erin Cataldi, Johnson Cty. P.L., Franklin, IN

    Copyright 2015 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Susanna Kearsley, New York Times bestselling author of A Desperate Fortune and The Firebird "The Girl Who Wrote in Silk is a beautiful story that brought me to tears more than once, and was a testament to the endurance of the human spirit and the human heart. A powerful debut that proves the threads that interweave our lives can withstand time and any tide, and bind our hearts forever."
  • Susan Wiggs, New York Times bestselling author of The Beekeeper's Ball "The Girl Who Wrote in Silk is a beautiful, elegiac novel, as finely and delicately woven as the title suggests. Kelli Estes spins a spellbinding tale that illuminates the past in all its brutality and beauty, and the humanity that binds us all together."
  • Duncan Jepson, author of All the Flowers in Shanghai "A touching and tender story about discovering the past to bring peace to the present."
  • RT Book Reviews "Estes sheds light on a dark period in Seattle's history that is sure to interest those seeking unusual historical details long hidden from history books. 4 Stars."
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