The Girl Who Wrote in Silk
by Kelli Estes
A debut novel written in 2015, Inara Erickson inherits her Aunt Dahlia’s
estate (Rothesay) on Orcas Island. (Orcas is the largest of the San Juan
Islands of the Pacific Northwest.) The estate is in poor condition but Inara
wants to remodel it. She wants to create a boutique hotel. Her father just
wants the property sold but is willing to give his daughter a chance and will
finance the improvements. He does reserve the right to call in the loan at any
time. Inara uncovers an embroidered silk sleeve in a hidden spot under the
stairs. She is determined to learn the meaning behind the sleeve which appears
to tell a story.
Inara contacts David Chin, a local professor of Asian history, to help
determine the history behind the silk sleeve. In the late 1800’s, the people of
Seattle wanted to get rid of its Chinese community and forcibly removed most of
them. Mei Lin is the embroiderer who was a survivor. Life was not easy for Mei
Lin and Jacob, her American husband. The sleeve and the rest of the robe tell
the story of Mei Lin’s family. With David’s assistance and stories from Inara’s
father, it’s discovered that there are generations old connections between Mei
Lin and Inara and David Chin. Some of the history is horrific to imagine.
Part mystery and part romance, the novel looks at an often-forgotten period
of Pacific Northwest history. In particular the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882
which suspended Chinese immigration for ten years and declared Chinese immigrant’s
ineligible for naturalization.