Title: A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow
Author: Laura Taylor Namey
Publication Date: November 10, 2020
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Age range and genre: YA contemporary romance
Synopsis: For Lila Reyes, a summer in England was never part of the plan. The plan was 1) take over her abuela’s role as head baker at their panadería, 2) move in with her best friend after graduation, and 3) live happily ever after with her boyfriend. But then the Trifecta happened, and everything—including Lila herself—fell apart.
Worried about Lila’s mental health, her parents make a new plan for her: Spend three months with family friends in Winchester, England, to relax and reset. But with the lack of sun, a grumpy inn cook, and a small town lacking Miami flavor (both in food and otherwise), what would be a dream trip for some feels more like a nightmare to Lila…until she meets Orion Maxwell.
A teashop clerk with troubles of his own, Orion is determined to help Lila out of her funk, and appoints himself as her personal tour guide. From Winchester’s drama-filled music scene to the sweeping English countryside, it isn’t long before Lila is not only charmed by Orion, but England itself. Soon a new future is beginning to form in Lila’s mind – one that would mean leaving everything she ever planned behind.
For someone as soft and lovey as me, you would think I’d read more books that give me the warm-and-fuzzies! But A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow is only one of the few I’ve read this year that reminded me I need to do it more (seriously, I could probably count them on one hand). I couldn’t resist requesting this on NetGalley (shoutout to them for the eARC) and was so excited to pick it up, and overwhelmingly pleased with how much I loved it when I finished.
Lately, I’ve been desperately needing a dose of love, and with Lila’s story of rediscovery through embracing a whole new world, and learning how to fuse them together in herself, A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow was exactly what I was craving, both food wise and in terms of comfort. By the end of it, I was crying (happy tears) in bed at night and getting up to make tea and pastries the next morning, and I couldn’t imagine a more perfect combination for these coming months.
Reasons to Read A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow
One of the reasons this book hit me so hard is that at the center of it all is this devastating sense of loss, which Lila calls “the trifecta” leading up to her perfect storm of a summer. She loses her abuela, her boyfriend of three years, and the future plans she had with her best friend, and that’s the kicker; she doesn’t just lose people and memories, she loses the entire sense of tomorrow that used to be so certain for a planner like Lila Reyes. On the other hand, we have Orion Maxwell who loses someone in a completely different meaning of the word, and his lesson-turned-life-philosophy is that he shouldn’t ask the world for more than what he gets, and if that means he meets Lila one day and he’s meant to lose her three months later, he’s okay with that. Aside from being totally heart-wrenching, the friendship these two stars develop surrounds a mutual acknowledgement of their loss, and learning from each other’s coping mechanisms, leaving behind a very emotional Orianna.
Another vital centerpiece of this story is the food and landscape of two different worlds. Lila’s bright and awakening Cuban flavors from Miami (all of which are deliciously described) meet Orion’s warm and earthy flavors (both in tea and personality), making for a new and conflicted Lila. Her whole life has centered Paloma (the bakery she’s meant to run with her sister when she returns home) until this initially unwanted vacation, but now that she’s tasted how many more flavors are out there, her mind reels with how many different experiences her own food could give to people.
Loss is definitely a tricky thing to navigate, which also makes gain more complicated than it used to be; Lila’s losses have led her to gains that feel weird as she’s trying to hold both in one person. Laura Taylor Namey deserves all the praise for writing such a beautiful process of pain becoming maybe not so painful anymore, and how even when things kinda suck, the world is bigger than today. She reminds and encourages us that we can ask for things, whether it be help, a hug, or a tomorrow.
If you’d like to read A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow for yourself, add it on Goodreads and keep an eye out for it on release day!
For those of you who love food-related books, here are some other recommendations from us here at LoveYoShelf!
The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling also goes down as one of my personal favorites for this genre. It was a gift from Lauren and I read it at a such a necessary time, particularly good after reading many high-action fantasy novels in a row (as I tend to do). Illustrating the complicated relationship between family and mental health, and how a good meal can fill gaps we didn’t even know were there sometimes, Wai Chim writes a stunning novel that centers the rediscovery of how filling food can really be, and the rediscovery of family ties that got lost along the way.
You can bet that if there’s a book about food, complicated family relationships are hovering nearby. Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop creates such a whimsical environment where Vanessa uses her relationship with food to reconcile her individual beliefs and the strong-minded values her family holds. For more on Roselle Lim’s beautiful and mouth-watering book on treats and family feats, you can read Lauren’s review here.
In true LoveYoShelf fashion, Tweet Cute is on this list for both the food and the puns. Fun, quick, and meme-y as hell, I can’t wait to (finally) read this one. Do I have to say anything else? Likewise, you can also catch Lauren’s review here.
Talking about all this food made me feel a little snacky, so I’ll stop here, but let me know in the comments if there are any food-related books we missed out on (and also feel free to drop some of your favorite food recipes!!). If you decide to pick up any of these, remember to have food nearby!
See you next time, my sweets, and as always,