In my ongoing attempts to read beyond my typical Tudor fiction I accepted a copy of Little Tea by Claire Fullerton. It’s a dual timeling book that goes back and forth between today and the 1980s. It hurts me to think of the ’80ies as historical fiction but I guess they are. Does that make my marriage antique?
About Little Tea:
Southern Culture … Old Friendships … Family Tragedy
One phone call from Renny to come home and “see about” the capricious Ava and Celia Wakefield decides to overlook her distressful past in the name of friendship.
For three reflective days at Renny’s lake house in Heber Springs, Arkansas, the three childhood friends reunite and examine life, love, marriage, and the ties that bind, even though Celia’s personal story has yet to be healed. When the past arrives at the lake house door in the form of her old boyfriend, Celia must revisit the life she’d tried to outrun.
As her idyllic coming of age alongside her best friend, Little Tea, on her family’s ancestral grounds in bucolic Como, Mississippi unfolds, Celia realizes there is no better place to accept her own story than in this circle of friends who have remained beside her throughout the years. Theirs is a friendship that can talk any life sorrow into a comic tragedy, and now that the racial divide in the Deep South has evolved, Celia wonders if friendship can triumph over history.
About the Author:
Claire Fullerton hails from Memphis, TN. and now lives in Malibu, CA. with her husband and 3 German shepherds. She is the author of Mourning Dove, a coming of age, Southern family saga set in 1970’s Memphis. Mourning Dove is a five-time award winner, including the Literary Classics Words on Wings for Book of the Year, and the Ippy Award silver medal in regional fiction ( Southeast.) Claire is also the author of Dancing to an Irish Reel, a Kindle Book Review and Readers’ Favorite award winner that is set on the west coast of Ireland, where she once lived. Claire’s first novel is a paranormal mystery set in two time periods titled, A Portal in Time, set in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. She is a contributor to the book, A Southern Season with her novella, Through an Autumn Window, set at a Memphis funeral ( because something always goes wrong at a Southern funeral.) Little Tea is Claire’s 4th novel and is set in the Deep South. It is the story of the bonds of female friendship, healing the past, and outdated racial relations. Little Tea is the August selection of the Pulpwood Queens, a Faulkner Society finalist in the William Wisdom international competition, and on the long list of the Chanticleer Review’s Somerset award. She is represented by Julie Gwinn of the Seymour Literary Agency.
This might be the best book I’ve read so far this year. I don’t tend to read friendship type books like this but something about the synopsis called to me so I took a chance and I’m so glad I did. The book is not long at 252 pages but it packs in a lot of emotional storytelling. Three friends, Celia, Ava and Renny gather for a weekend at a lake house in Arkansas ostensibly to help Ava but this is Celia’s story. She is the daughter of the Old South, having grown up on “the farm” but what was a Plantation. Her best friend is a black girl called Little Tea, the daughter of a family that has been “working” for her family for generations. Obviously the arrangements for that work are vastly different in the 1980s than they were in the 1800s.
Not everyone in her immediate social circle agree with her family’s feelings about race relations, nor do the people in Little Tea’s world. When a family tragedy strikes it shows Celia exactly who her friends really are. She ends up leaving the South and moving to California where she finds a whole new life but can she really leave her Southern roots behind.
This is a very powerful book about friendship, family, hate, bigotry and ultimately redemption. Ms. Fullerton is nevery flowery or excessive in her descriptions as one might expect given the topics but her writing is lyrical, spare and so on point you have a hard time putting the book down. I am only sorry that I started it in the evening and was having a bad day and simply could not keep my eyes open so I had to go to sleep. I finished it the following morning and the ending simply blew me away. I did not see it coming.
This is not to say that all of the characters were likable – indeed, some (I’m looking at you Ava) made me want to scream but this is human nature. No circle of friends is one note and if it were it would ring false. I will also note that I am left with questions but perhaps they are better left to my imagination for everything in life is not wrapped up in a neat little bow, is it?
I will be keeping this one for a reread down the road.
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