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The Girl Who Wrote in Silk

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  27,765 ratings  ·  3,347 reviews
A historical novel inspired by true events, Kelli Estes's brilliant and atmospheric debut is a poignant tale of two women determined to do the right thing, highlighting the power of our own stories.

The smallest items can hold centuries of secrets...

While exploring her aunt's island estate, Inara Erickson is captivated by an elaborately stitched piece of fabric hidden in th
Paperback, 391 pages
Published July 7th 2015 by Sourcebooks Landmark
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Jamchang I believe the author might have meant Margaret Chin since she indicated great-grandmother rather than grandmother. Generational confusion aside, in a …moreI believe the author might have meant Margaret Chin since she indicated great-grandmother rather than grandmother. Generational confusion aside, in a benefit of doubt to the book & author- in traditional Chinese culture, once married into another family, Vera belonged more to her husband's clan than her own blood relations. (less)
Wilma Santos I did not wonder. Warren Buffett, Bill Gates etcetera never gave their children a free ride, they had to work for it and pay for it themselves. Her f…more I did not wonder. Warren Buffett, Bill Gates etcetera never gave their children a free ride, they had to work for it and pay for it themselves. Her father was using good old-fashioned parenting that says, “I have what I have because I worked for it now it’s your turn to do the same”(less)

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 ·  27,765 ratings  ·  3,347 reviews

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Kelli Estes
Jul 09, 2015 added it  ·  (Review from the author)
I wrote this book and hope you enjoy it!
Aug 28, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobook
I liked this book, but I didn't love it. I wanted to, but the plot was too predictable and the characters kind of annoying and unbelievable, in some ways. It depicts a fascinating period in American history that isn't in history books - racism toward Chinese Americans at the turn of the century, which went hand in hand with the Exclusion Act of 1882. I love the setting - the San Juan Islands. The plot itself makes the story fun, but I was really hoping for some curve balls, like when they found ...more
Lori Elliott (semi-hiatus)
What a fabulous debut novel. This incorporated everything that I love about historical fiction. A historical period/event I knew nothing about, characters I could root for and a convincing story tying it all together. Mei Lein is one of those superbly created characters that I will continue to think about... and cry over for a long time. A touching story that I highly recommend. I am so excited to read more by Estes.
Cristine Mermaid
Dec 10, 2015 rated it liked it
This book is an easy read and the story is compelling and I found myself very drawn into it. However, the writing itself is very cliche, bordering on cheesy at points. I did very much enjoy learning about the Orcas Islands and horrified to learn of how the Chinese-Americans were treated during this time period. I became attached to Mei and her husband but couldn't warm up to Inara who's big problem in life was deciding if she should pursue a career in international relations that was offered to ...more
Jun 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
I closed the book with a tightness in my throat and sorrow in my chest. The main thought swirling in my head was "People really never change". Maybe I'm feeling hypersensitive after all the horrible events that have happened lately in the cause of hatred; a mass shooting, murder of a respected British MP, threats against mosques in a local city, and some of the day to day vitriol spewed in social media comments. Increasingly I question where has compassion gone in our society? It wasn't found i ...more
I read this for my book club, otherwise, I imagine I probably would have dropped it the first time Inara does a google search, and the author dutifully records all of her search term variations. No, okay, no. The book is plagued with mediocre writing and research, and the plot suffers from cliché, coincidence, and sappy romance.

I love the Pacific Northwest. It's one of my favorite places to visit, but Estes punts on the setting, and honestly the book could have been set on any island (I'm think
Jan 31, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 strong stars rounded up for this beautifully written historical fiction novel. I purchased this book years ago but for some reason I never got around to reading it. It even sat on my table next to my bed for the longest time but I still continued to ignore it. Then recently, I saw that the audio CD version was available from my local library and I placed a hold on it. I was so glad that I did. The Girl Who Wrote in Silk was Kelli Estes debut novel. It was read exceptionally well by Emily Woo ...more
Feb 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Set in the Seattle area this a page turner that goes back and forth from the late 1800's in Washington Territory to present. Inara is lured back to Orcas Island where her mother passed away and to inspect a piece of family property. What she finds is more than a hidden passion to resurrect the old property, but family secrets surface when she discovers an ornately embroidered piece of silk from a robe hidden under the floorboards. This is very good and prompted me to look more into The Chinese E ...more
Sep 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
I started listening to this book when the audiobook I was listening to (The Deerslayer) became too slow for me to be able to pay attention to while driving. A co-worker recommended this story to me a few months ago, and I am glad that I put it on my list. It was an easy listen and it was able to get and keep my interest.

Over the past couple of years I have developed a fondness for historical fiction which came at a bit of a surprise to me. I never liked history in school, but I'm starting to thi
Nancy (Trying  to catch up with reviews)
Sometimes I find it tricky rating dual timeline books when I greatly prefer one time period to the other which was the case with this novel. Mei Lein's story was both fascinating and heartbreaking and I loved her character. As an Asian American, this was the story I was drawn to immediately. I learned about another part of American history which I knew nothing about. The Exclusion Act of 1882 prohibited the immigration of Chinese laborers to the US. It was the only major federal legislation to s ...more
Stephanie Steinberg
Oct 14, 2015 rated it it was ok
This is the story of a Chinese woman living in Seattle in the late 1800's. Along with many other Chinese people, she and her family are forced to leave on a ship. The Chinese passengers are then killed and dumped overboard. The girl escapes by jumping overboard. There is a modern story in which a young woman finds a piece of silk embroidery which she used to learn about the Chinese woman's story. This book was poorly written and full of bad cliches. Also, ridiculous coincidences and over the top ...more
Jun 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I have been thinking about this book all day. It really is a compelling, feel good story. I really do not like sappy romance novels although sometimes they can be a fun read. This is NOT a sappy romance novel but there is romance involved. There is love in two time lines and I really liked that part of it.

This book is written in a dual time line format, one in 1886 and one hundred years later, in "present day". What I liked about this one, is that I did not ever feel rushed to get back to or st
Elizabeth of Silver's Reviews
Jun 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Did Mei Lien stand on the edge of the boat's railing because she knew she had to or because she was forced to be there? Did this act begin or end Mei Lien’s life? Did this act begin or end Inara’s life?

Mei Lien lived 100 years ago​. Inara lives in the present. Their lives are unknowingly connected until Inara finds a family story on a hidden embroidered sleeve in a house that belonged to Inara's ancestors and where Mei Lien and her family had lived...the connection and the secrets begin.

The emb
Alice Poon
Jan 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Before I read this novel, I had never heard of the discriminating Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 in the U.S., which was not repealed until 1943. I respect the author's honest attempt to bring an unsavory truth of Chinese-American history, through fiction, to the attention of a wider audience.

The story consists of a dual time-line: one that follows Mei Lin's tragic life in the 1800s on Orcas Island and the other one that traces Inara Erickson's present-day attempt to gradually unravel that tragedy
Sharon Metcalf
4.5 stars

The Girl Who Wrote in Silkby Kelli Estes was a remarkable debut novel of historical fiction. It was a moving tale which shone a spotlight on the Chinese experience in America during the late nineteenth century and tied it together with a contemporary storyline. I'd never heard of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 nor of the way people of Chinese heritage were forcefully removed from towns across America but I am unlikely to forget it now having been so engrossed in this beautiful novel.
Connie G
3.5 stars. Inara inherited her aunt's waterfront estate on Orcas Island in Washington state. While examining a loose stair, she found a beautiful piece of fabric embroidered with Chinese symbols and designs. She took it to a professor familiar with Chinese history, and their research led back to the 1880s when the Chinese were violently forced from their homes along the Pacific coast.

The book alternates between the contemporary story and a touching historical story set in the late 19th Century a
May 22, 2019 rated it liked it
It was kind of a boring read for me but I did learn a lot about the history of the Chinese in this country and the way they were treated especially in Washington state. "The more I learned, the more I became horrified at the ethnic cleansing that had occurred and that was left unmentioned in all of my history books in school." Kelli Estes, Author's Note pg. 374 Very true and I have to respect Estes for this and trying to tell a story that represents and honors all those lives that were taken. (1 ...more
I am always shocked by America's long and ugly history of racism. This book uses the violence against Chinese immigrants residing on the west coast during the end of the 19th century as its backdrop. The usual range of arguments were employed. First, there was the economic one of Chinese laborers taking jobs from Americans. Then there were the blatant racist arguments about an existential threat to the superior white race. In 1882 the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed and signed into law by Presi ...more
Kelli Estes, you have written a wonderful historical fiction novel, beautifully crafted and researched. I knew nothing of the terrible treatment of Chinese in America toward the end of the 19th Century until I read this book of yours. First I want to share some excerpts from your author's note that give potential readers the proper background:

The inspiration for this novel sparked as I was researching the history of the San Juan Islands and came across a story in an old settler’s diary telling o
Sep 25, 2016 rated it it was ok
Flat, wooden characters. Superficial, historical detail. It's basically the book version of a Hallmark movie special. And you all know how much I love Hallmark movies. ...more
Dec 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-club

Kelli Estes’ novel The Girl Who Wrote in Silk uses a literary device that I find attractive: alternating dual narratives about two women who live over a century apart in time. And the focus on the Chinese Exclusion Act (1882) and the political troubles that surround that period highlights a time our history that I (and probably others) could stand learning more about. Inara Erikson, the contemporary narrator, has recently earned her MBA and landed a management job with Starbucks (this story
Sep 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the best book I've read this year. And it's quite possibly the best historical fiction I've ever read. The story and the characters have stayed with me even though I finished the book last week. I listed to the audio version and it is excellent, done by Emily Woo Zeller. There are two protagonists, one present day, Inara Erickson, who has inherited her aunt's estate, a house on Orcas Island. She spent many happy hours during her childhood, but she is planning on selling the estate and be ...more
Jun 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The Girl Who Wrote in Silk is a stunning debut novel. Kelli Estes has incorporated everything I love about historical fiction.
It is an emotional tale told both in the present and the past. The language is both descriptive and rich in flavour. I could almost place myself in the Seattle area, the ferry and the island. Estes is a master writer as she links together two women by a tragic event in history. It is a highly captivating read from beginning to end.
"Live happy and love deep."
" better to b
Historical Fiction
I eyed Kelli Estes’ The Girl Who Wrote in Silk a long time before picking it up. I’d not read the author before and I’m not convinced I’ll read her again, but I’m not disappointed with myself for sticking it out so I guess that’s something.

For those who want a drive-by style review, this book and I proved a poor fit. Detailing the reasons why requires certain disclosures so if spoilers bother you, cut and run here.

(view spoiler)
If Goodreads had a broader points system to award, I would have given this easy read about 3.4 stars, maybe 3.5. I kind of hate giving it just 3 stars because it managed to keep me well entertained in the short time it took to read.

The history which is a focal point in "The Girl Who Wrote in Silk" centres on the late 1800s, when Chinese immigrants who had been brought to North America in the thousands to build railroads across the continent in both the USA and Canada were no longer needed. The
Mar 12, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It's hard to write a review for a book when you know for a fact the author shops at the same Costco you do, and there is a very high likelihood you might just randomly bump into her one day while out running errands. That said, this book falls into my bucket of, "Eh, it's OK, I guess, but I wouldn't really recommend anyone else take time to read this. Also, I'm pretty sure I'm going to forget about this book in a few days and not remember half of it when my book club meets in two weeks."

It's an
Jun 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Another book set on Orcas Island, I loved the familiar connections! The story is told alternating between present day and the 1800s with an ugly past based on true events when Chinese immigrants were harassed and sometimes forcibly driven out. You don't have to know Seattle or the San Juan Islands to enjoy this engrossing and well written tale. But it sure upped my reading enjoyment! 4 and a half PNW stars. ...more
Gisela Hafezparast
Jun 07, 2021 rated it it was ok
Oh this is one of the books which makes me wish it had been written by a better writer. This could have been such a great story in the hands of a better, or sorry, less lazy writer!

I admit, I knew that the Chinese who came over from China to work mainly on building the railways were treated sadly unsurprisingly badly and racism was a common thing. However, I did not know that once the railways were build and jobs were getting scarce, Chinese and Chinese-Americans, were actually made to go back t
Carol Brill
Oct 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
I did not know about this disturbing period of history in the 1880's when Chinese were cruelly deported and worse. It's sad to see how often our history repeats itself.
Mei Lien is the only member of her family to survive a forced deportation by sea from Washington Territory in 1886. She is rescued by a kind man named Joseph McElroy. Joseph promises to keep her safe in spite of the discrimination that prevails against Chinese in his community. Mei Lien is afraid to trust this white man, but sees
Joshua Gross
Jun 25, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: gave-up-on
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Kelli Estes is the USA Today bestselling author of THE GIRL WHO WROTE IN SILK which has been translated into eleven languages and was the recipient of the Pacific Northwest Writer’s Association Nancy Pearl Book Award and the Women’s Fiction Writers Association Star Award (Debut). Her second novel TODAY WE GO HOME was the nationwide Target Book Club pick for September 2019. Known for dual-timeline ...more

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