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Snow Flower And The Secret Fan by Lisa See
Snow Flower And The Secret Fan is set in 19th-century China where women are kept secluded and never intermingle with the men. Lily has beautiful feet, once they're broken and bound, which should attract her a desirable husband. To improve her chances of attracting a wealthy man, her matchmaker pairs her with a laotong -- "old sames" -- a girl from a wealthy family named Snow Flower. Old sames are best friends for life and their relationship is closer and more important than their husbands. The secluded women communicate via a secret language, call nu shu, and Lily and Snow Flower write it on a fan they use for correspondence. Nu shu is considered an unimportant language by men, so they never learn it. Lily and Snow Flower grow very close over the years, until Lily misinterprets a letter from Snow Flower, threatening her relationship with her only friend. Lisa See's novel has received positive reviews for its evocative descriptions of a culture long forgotten. The USA Today says, "If there is a sleeper summer hit, it should be this story, which draws you into a time not as ancient as it seems, touching your heart and breaking it at the same time."