Author Lyn Liao Butler Brings A Multicultural Tale About Family & Heritage In “Red Thread of Fate”

Author Lyn Liao Butler. Image by

For fans of Amy Tan, Celeste Ng, and Liane Moriarty comes a new book from Taiwanese author Lyn Liao Butler (“The Tiger Mom’s Tale”), who returns for a multicultural tale of loss, recovery and heritage. Saturated with Lyn’s skill for crafting authentic characters and stories that feel sewn to your heart, her new book “Red Thread of Fate” (out February 8, Berkley paperback) is a heart-warming meditation on the ties that bind identity and family.

After her husband Tony and his cousin Mia die tragically just before their adoption of a boy from China, Tam finds herself not just a widow, but also guardian of Mia’s five-year-old daughter, Angela. Suddenly a single mom, Tam is weighted with whether she should continue with the adoption that she and Tony were supposed to celebrate together.

As she adjusts to being a mother and guardian, new secrets begin bubbling up that shake her relationship with Angela and send her on a mission to unravel Tony and Mia’s past in China. As Lyn Liao Butler weaves together her own experiences of heritage and adoption with this immersive story, readers will follow Tam as she rediscovers the dynamic meanings of love and family.

At a time when the country is grappling with the pushback toward books and authors (especially authors of color) that seek to examine the complicated history of the United States, it is important that we as a platform use our space to double down on amplifying multicultural voices, and share in the collective immigrant experiences that have made this country rich and eclectic.

We had the opportunity to speak with Lyn Liao Butler about her own immigrant story, her adoption experience, and the kinds of misconceptions about both that ‘Red Thread of Fate’ will address through its main characters.

When did you first begin writing ‘Red Thread of Fate’, and how much of your own experience did you draw from? 

I started writing this book in 2016, the year my husband and I adopted a little boy. My husband is a FDNY fireman, and one day, his firehouse answered a call where a man was on the phone with his wife when she was killed. And of course, my writer brain said, what would someone do if that happened, AND they were about to adopt a child? And that’s how this story was born. The only thing I drew from my own experience was the adoption journey itself. Everything else is a figment of my imagination.

How has your adoption experience and journey from Taiwan to the US impacted your life today? 

I was born in Taiwan and moved to the States when I was seven. I’ve basically grown up American, but it’s been hard being caught between two cultures, never really being a full part of either. In Taiwan, we weren’t Taiwanese enough, and in America, we were looked upon as foreigners. It wasn’t until my thirties that I started to not be ashamed of my Asian background

We adopted our son from China, and he’s completely changed our lives. He is the happiest little boy and teaches us each day how to live life fully. To watch him fully appreciate each day because he came from so little, is such an inspiration.

Your main character Tam deals with grief over the loss of her husband, while also navigating through an adoption process. What did you want readers to learn about by intertwining these complex issues?

Life is messy, and sometimes big life events hit us all at once. That was the overall theme of this book, how, not only is she dealing with the loss of her husband, but now she needs to decide if she’s going to adopt the boy and also take in the little girl who was orphaned due to the accident. And at the heart of it all, it’s family that pulls us through.

A lot of the story focuses on identity and heritage, and how the characters navigate this in their lives. How did you navigate your own heritage and identity growing up?

As someone born in Taiwan but basically grew up in the States, it’s been hard trying to assimilate. I’d often try to hide my “Asianess” whether it be the kind of foods I brought to school, the clothes I wore, or the traditions that my family followed but Americans wouldn’t understand. I thought being blonde was the “preferred” look, and that anyone else was “less.”

We lived in a predominately white neighborhood when I was growing up, so I didn’t interact with a lot of Taiwanese, or even Asian people. It wasn’t until I got to college that I even thought about my identity and heritage. It’s been a work in progress figuring it out, and I think that’s why I tend to write stories where identity and heritage are key points of the book. 

What are some misconceptions about adoption you hope ‘Red Thread of Fate’ will shed light on? 

When most people hear “adoption from China,” they assume you are adopting an infant girl. I wanted to shed light that that’s not the case now, and that there are many children who have been labeled “special focus” who need homes. Also, so much has been written or reported on the poor conditions of some of the orphanages, and while that may be true, the real unsung heroes are the ayis, or nannies who took care of the children.

They often get attached to the kids under their care, and it makes it hard on them when they get adopted out (even though they are happy for the children). I wanted to show one such bond between an ayi and a child, to show the human side of adoption, not just from the child’s or adoptive parents’ point of view, but other people who are involved. 

We love the way this book allows readers to rethink the concept of “family” and what goes into building one. How has the concept of family evolved for you throughout your life? 

I’ve always thought family means your biological family, one you are connected to through blood. But as I got older, there would be people I met who are not related by blood, but that I felt a kinship to, and consider family. And then when we adopted our son, he really became a part of our family and I realized there are so many ways to define family.

Our son couldn’t be more a part of our family, and he didn’t come from either of us. No matter how people come together, it’s about how they treat each other and care for each other which makes up a family. I know many people who are biologically related, who don’t even speak at all. I hope this book helps shed light on the different ways that families can be formed. 

What do you hope readers will be left thinking about most after reading “Red Thread of Fate” ? 

I created flawed characters in both Tam and Mia, and I wanted to show that even if someone’s action appears wrong, oftentimes, there’s a reason why they make the choices or do the things they do in life. And I think that’s true for all of us. We all make mistakes, sometimes big ones. This is life but our choices impact others, and they can also bring people together in unexpected ways.

You never know what life is going to throw at you, so like our son has taught us, live each day to the fullest and don’t hold grudges. Secrets have a way of morphing into something bigger, and Red Thread of Fate weaves in all those unspoken words with the finding of a new family which I hope readers will feel for and ultimately understand the choices they made.

You can pre-order “Red Thread of Fate” now, by clicking HERE.

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