Welcome to the series where authors in the Cafe and Bookstore an extract from their most recent book. If you are in the Cafe, and would like to participate you can find all the details here: Share an Extract
The next author to share an extract is Claire Fullerton for her novel Little Tea a book that I can recommend. Claire also shares some location shots from the novel.
About the book.
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.
An extract from Little Tea
“Hey, Little Tea,” Hayward called as she and I sat crossed-legged on the north side of the verandah. “I bet I can beat you to the mailbox and back.” It was a Saturday afternoon in early June, and we’d spread the church section of the Como Panolian beneath us and positioned ourselves beneath one of the pair of box windows gracing either side of the front door. The front door was fully open, but its screen was latched to keep the bugs from funneling into the entrance hall. They’d be borne from the current of the verandah ceiling fans that stirred a humidity so pervasive and wilting, there was no escaping until the weather cooled in early November. The glass pitcher of sweet tea Elvita gave us sat opaque and sweating, reducing crescents of ice to weak bobbing smiles around a flaccid slice of lemon.
Little Tea stood to her full height at Hayward’s challenge, her hand on her hip, her oval eyes narrowed. “Go on with yourself,” she said to Hayward, which was Little Tea’s standard way of dismissal.
“I bet I can,” Hayward pressed, standing alongside Rufus, his two-year-old Redbone coonhound who shadowed him everywhere.
Little Tea took a mighty step forward. “And you best get that dog outta here ’fore he upends this here paint. Miss Shirley gone be pitching a fit you get paint on her verandah.”
“Then come race me,” Hayward persisted. “Rufus will follow me down the driveway. You just don’t want to race because I beat you the last time.”
“You beat me because you a cheat,” Little Tea snapped.
“She’s right, Hayward,” I said. “You took off first, I saw you.”
“It’s not my fault she’s slow on the trigger,” Hayward responded. “Little Tea hesitated, I just took the advantage.”
“I’ll be taking advantage now,” she stated, walking down the four brick steps to where Hayward and Rufus stood.
At ten years old, Little Tea was taller than me and almost as tall as Hayward. She had long, wire-thin limbs whose elegance belied their dependable strength, and a way of walking from an exaggerated lift of her knees that never disturbed her steady carriage. She was regal at every well-defined angle, with shoulders spanning twice the width of her tapered waist and a swan neck that pronounced her determined jaw.
Smiling, Hayward bounced on the balls of his feet, every inch of his lithe body coiled and ready to spring. There was no refusing Hayward’s smile, and he knew it. It was a thousand-watt pirate smile whose influence could create a domino effect through a crowd. I’d seen Hayward’s smile buckle the most resistant of moods; there was no turning away from its white-toothed, winsome source. When my brother smiled, he issued an invitation to the world to get the joke.
Typically, the whole world would.
One of the recent reviews for the book
Little Tea packs a powerful punch, especially reading it in light of the Black Lives Matter movement. I do not tolerate prejudice of any kind, and reading about southern prejudice, even in fiction, makes my skin crawl, but Claire Fullerton paints a picture that I was not expecting, and left me with all the feels.
Celia, the main character, is a peacekeeper by nature, and has gotten really good at suppressing her feelings about life’s circumstances, and running away from it all. It’s been years since she’s been home, but when one of her best friends needs her help, she immediately flees home. Oh, to have friends that have your back like that. One of the things I admired about this novel is the friendships, the loving despite flaws, and backing the other person even if you don’t quite see eye to eye on certain actions.
While Celia’s mission during her trip is to help her friend, she finds herself facing her own tortured past that she has fought to run away from. Written in Celia’s own words, she parallels her past story with her present situation in a seamless way, telling a tale of growing up on a plantation in a privileged family in the deep south, alongside her brother and her best friend, Little Tea. Little Tea’s family have worked for Celia’s family for generations, and to Celia they are like family, though not everyone in her family shares her sentiments, some continuing to hold onto outdated racial discrimination.
Reading about Celia and Little Tea growing up was hands down my favorite part of the story, the innocence as sugary sweet as tea on a hot summer day. I especially loved the races, and how Little Tea and all her sass just shine. It was in those moments that I fell in love with this character, and admire how strong and independent she was, even at a young age.
Incredibly written, Claire Fullerton takes you into the life of a woman struggling to find closure, yet fighting the past at the same time, painting a vivid picture that I think we all can relate to. The character development is splendid, and while I do not understand southern traditions, or this world described, I felt it was true to life.
My only beef, if you can really even call it that, is the ending. Though there is a resolution, I was still left with questions, and actually groaned, “No…” when I realized it was the end. I craved to know more at the final revelation, but alas I must use my own imagination.
Despite feeling unfinished (most likely only to myself), Little Tea is a wonderfully written memoir with enviable friendships, excruciating heartache, and courage to face the past to better your future.
Read the reviews and buy the book: Amazon US
And : Amazon UK
Also by Claire Fullerton
Read the reviews and buy the books : Amazon US
and: Amazon UK
Read other reviews and follow Claire on : Goodreads
About Claire Fullerton
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.
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Thanks for dropping in and I hope the extract from Little Tea has tempted you to read the book… thanks Sally.