In Brief: Summary of The Secret Mother

Double Happiness Couplet in black ink

The Secret Mother uncovers the incredible life of Chinese migrant worker, Mai Ling. Unable to marry a boy she loathes, the plucky sixteen year old flees her home in rural Hunan. Along with her capricious cousin, Zhi, she escapes to the city to find work in one of Nanchang’s booming factories. Freedom and prosperity beckon. China is opening up, fast becoming an industrial powerhouse of the world. Everyone is seeking the Chinese Dream. But for some, like Mai Ling, the cost proves too high – especially when she falls pregnant.

In England, adopted twins Jen and Ricki are celebrating their sixteenth birthday party. Born in China, but raised in England they have mixed feelings about their cultural heritage. Then news comes that their Chinese teacher, May, has been knocked down in a car accident. From the possessions they find in her bedsit, the twins start to uncover May’s secret identity.

Together, Jen and Ricki must piece together their shared history – a harrowing journey which takes them back to China in this gripping transcontinental tale of motherhood, identity and global capitalism.

The Secret Mother puts a face to the label “Made in China”. It links the stories of four very different women, whose lives are forever intertwined.