Coming of age can be both magical and heartbreaking. It is a time when everything is larger than life and stronger than the strongest tropical storm. For this Cuban girl raised in Miami, this story not only hit home, but also felt like a part of me. I could close my eyes and see myself in so many parts of it.
As the youngest daughter of a Cuban family living in Miami, Lila Reyes has everything she could possibly want. She has spent her life learning to make all of the recipes her grandmother taught her while working at their family bakery, La Paloma. Cooking and baking are Lila’s heart and soul; they are the passions that drive her dreams and fuel her goals. The recipes her grandmother taught her go far beyond the kitchen where she spends so much of her time; they are the very beat of her heart.
Throughout the book, Namey tells Lila’s story through the recipes she weaves in, defining Lila in so many ways. The recipes explain who she is and define her relationships, her experiences, her joys, and her sorrows.
Lila’s plans for the future are wrapped around the people that she knows, loves, and lives for. Her Abuela is her everything. She has plans with her best friend Stefanie and her boyfriend Andrés. Everything in her life is exactly as she dreams it should be until the day it isn’t. In a matter of months, everything she knows and depends on is suddenly no longer as it should be and Lila is not coping well.
As any doting Cuban parents would be, Lila’s Mami and Papi are concerned for their daughter. They fear that unless they take drastic measures, they will surely lose their youngest daughter to heartache. With heavy hearts, they decide the best thing for their little girl is to go spend the summer with Tia Cate, Mami’s best friend, who lives in England and runs an inn called The Owl and Crow. Lila is anything but pleased with this plan. She is reluctant, unhappy, and definitely angry that her parents feel sending her away is the best thing for her.
As the weeks pass, she begins to make friends and understand that the greatest lesson her grandmother taught her was that recipes can be altered and adjusted depending on the circumstances. As she shows the Inn guests, her Aunt and the new friends she is making what she is capable of, she begins to not only heal, but find herself.
This is a story about coming of age. It is a story of pain and heartache. It is the story of family, friendships, love and loss. It is a story of new beginnings. It is the story of so many young Cuban girls who have come to this country with dreams of more, with dreams of love, with hopes and aspirations. With the will to make all those dreams come true.
This book has made me laugh out loud, it has reminded me of my youth, of my parents and grandparents. It has made this Miami raised Cuban girl remember what my legacy is. It has made me proud to see the story of my heritage and my daughter’s depicted so beautifully. This story has made me cry for the many families that have sacrificed so much to come to this country and all the Abuelas who shared their recipes.
It is a story told with heart and love. It is a story about finding your favorite tea and discovering your tomorrow.
A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow
Laura Taylor Namey
Simon & Schuster
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