Little Tea by Claire Fullerton ~ Old Friendships and Family Tragedy #SouthernFiction #FamilySaga @cfullerton3 #FridayReads

Author: Claire Fullerton

Published: May 2020 by Firefly Southern Fiction

Category: Southern Fiction, Family Saga, Book Review

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.

Three childhood friends, Ava, Renny and Celia, grew up together and are now scattered around the country. Even though their lives have taken different directions, the ties of a deep friendship remain. When Ava is having serious doubts about her marriage and needs support, the three women get together for a few days at Renny’s lake house in Heber Springs, Arkansas. Ava has arranged to see her ex boyfriend, Mark while she’s at the cabin, unbeknownst to Celia and Renny, and he brings Celia’s ex fiancé over, which stirs up memories and emotions Celia had long since hoped would stay buried.

Little Tea alternates between the present and 1980’s Memphis, witnessing events unfolding through Celia’s eyes. Her family own a cotton farm in Como, Mississippi but spend a lot of time at their house in Memphis. Celia looks forward to being at the farm and spending time with her best friend, Little Tea Winfrey. Little Tea is African American, the daughter of employees of the Wakefields, and a budding athlete. Not everyone is open minded enough to accept their friendship. The younger generations are mostly more inclined to accept the cultual changes but even in the 1980s there are social and deeply entrenched racial divides in the South which allow a glimpse past the cultured veneer of society. Celia, her brother Hayward and their parents get along famously with the Winfreys, whereas the eldest sibling, John embraces the outdated ways of his grandparents.

But there was something contradictory to my grandmother’s benevolent sentiments towards all things great and small, and it was her staunch standpoint against those she called ‘coloreds.’ When in their presence, she assumed a mountaineer’s air, a prideful reserve cold as an artic blast, and there wasn’t a black person who ever came into her sphere who couldn’t feel it. It was disorientating for me to feel the barometric pressure rise when Thelonious, Elvita and Little Tea were around her. They’d each don a game-face bland as a lizard, and their demeanor changed to something sinuate and stoic. My brother John subscribed to our grandmother’s cultural divide completely, but Hayward and I never had cause to confront it until the night of Little Tea’s prom.

Claire Fullerton has crafted a Southern family saga written beautifully with vivid, atmospheric prose and also with attention to detail enough to transport the reader effortlessly to each setting. The story flows seamlessly and builds slowly, encompassing many themes and issues, including racial tension, southern culture, family dynamics and tragedies, friendships, young love and how the past affects the future, and is peopled with a diversity of realistic and believable characters. I enjoyed the banter and friendship between the three women, who each have such different personalities. Hayward was also a wonderful character, a perfect foil for his brother John who has his own secrets. 

Little Tea is an engaging read full of intricate layers, with humour, sadness and shocks, up to and including the end twist, which was quite sudden and unexpected. The 1980s Deep South is brought to life evocatively, with appearances being the mainstay of society and where anything distasteful or awkward is largely unacknowledged. The powerful older generation tending to keep the social traditions and unwritten rules alive in direct contrast to the present day and wider world. It’s fascinating.

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 Book Club 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.

Author links ~ Website | Facebook | Twitter

6 thoughts on “Little Tea by Claire Fullerton ~ Old Friendships and Family Tragedy #SouthernFiction #FamilySaga @cfullerton3 #FridayReads

  1. Lovely review, Cathy – this is on my RBRT list and I thought it might be a bit ‘slow’ for me, but I did love the quality of her writing in Mourning Dove, and have quite a fascination for southern US culture. Look forward to it!

    Liked by 1 person

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