By Natasha Ford
AUSTIN, Tx.—In Laura Taylor Namey’s second novel, “A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow,” Namey creates a world full of love, support, friendship, and, of course, food. For me, this book was a long, warm hug from my family. It was cozy, while also being honest about grief and loss. It was delicious, while also facing the struggles of life head on. “A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow” is truly a one-of-a-kind novel, with enough Cuban food to make anyone want to step into the kitchen.
For Lila Reyes, a summer in England was never part of the plan. Taking over her family’s bakery with her sister from her abuela was the plan. Staying with her boyfriend forever was the plan. Her best friend attending university in Miami and staying close to Lila was the plan. Unfortunately, nothing goes according to plan for Lila. Her grandmother passes away too soon, her boyfriend decides he needs to find himself without her, and her best friend leaves for Africa to make her own way. The trifecta of loss is too much for Lila to bear, and her concerned family sends her away to England to live with her tía for the summer to recover and reset.
Lila decides she hates England; she has no reason to be there when her bakery needs her. She is determined to stick to her plan, and then she meets Orion Maxwell, a British boy with a taste for sweets and tea. Lila finds herself, despite her best efforts, falling in love with England and Orion. Suddenly, a new future begins to form in Lila’s mind —one that would mean leaving everything she ever planned behind.
Lila is a strong, powerful character, and her struggles feel real and honest. She lost so much in a such a short time, and seeing her struggle to find herself again is something readers who have experienced loss can relate to. As a reader, we see Lila come to her own realizations about herself and her life in a way that doesn’t feel forced. Lila is a baker. Everything about her life is tied to food —making good food, eating good food and feeding others good food. She thrives off making people feel something with her dishes. Her love of baking comes from her abuela, and losing her abuela makes Lila realize how important baking is for preserving the memory of her grandmother.
When I think of home, I think of warm tostones, pastelitos guyaba, fresh Cuban bread, arroz con pollo on the stove and Latin jazz playing softly in the background. My home, my heart, is Cuban. And I found home in every page. This delightful novel warmed my heart and made me ache for a chance to get into the kitchen and recreate the food of my family. Namey has truly created something special in this novel. An introduction for people who don’t know much about Cuban culture, and a place to call home for those of us who grew up immersed in it. The biggest complaint I have with this book is that it doesn’t come with a list of recipes from the kitchen of Lila Reyes!
About the writer:
Natasha Ford graduated from St. Edward’s University with a Bachelor degree in English Writing & Rhetoric with a minor in music. She currently works at BookPeople as a Assistant Kids Inventory Manager. She is passionate about childhood literacy and diversity in publishing, and believes there is one book out there to turn every child into a reader. Her work has been published in Latinitas Magazine, Austin Woman Magazine, and on the BookPeople blog. In her free time, Natasha loves doing yoga, reading young adult fantasy, and playing her with schnorkie, Bodhi. Find more of her book reviews on her instagram, @natreadstuff!
Featured photo by Latinas Leyendo
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