Sunday, March 18, 2012

Charlene Reviews: Ida Mae Tutweiler and the Traveling Tea Party by Ginnie Siena Bivona

ISBN #: 978-1928704157
Page Count: 144
Copyright: April 2000
Publisher: Authorlink

(Taken from Amazon)

The book opens with Ida Mae Tutweiler preparing for a tea-time visit with her lifelong best friend Jane Tetly. Jane and Ida Mae are an unlikely pair; Jane is a glamorous actress in a day-time soap opera, much married, and naturally adventurous. Ida Mae is reserved and steady, a successful businesswoman. She owns a charming Victorian tearoom called Ladyfingers, in the town she was born in. She has never left Walton Falls, Ohio, nor does she care to. She is content to let Jane be her window on the world. And Jane needs Ida Mae's steadfast love, her anchor in a whirlwind life. Jane is rhinestones and red chiffon and Ida Mae is a simple well-worn navy blue suit.

Woven through the pages is the story of Ida Mae's life, her failed first marriage to her high-school boyfriend, the tragic death of her beloved Mum shortly before the birth of her adored daughter Kate, and the somewhat less than gracious support of her haughty Aunt Germaine. There is a passionate love affair that ends badly when her lover refuses to file for divorce from his separated wife. And there is the satisfying and hilarious ending of her Cousin Bernadette's abusive marriage. But throughout it all there is her beloved Jane, flashing in and out of Walton Falls "like a comet, trailing stars and small planets in her wake."

Jane arrives in a whirl of expensive gifts and the two women settle down for tea. But the visit is not what Ida Mae expects, because Jane tells her that she has breast cancer that has progressed beyond help and she is going away to die. Ida Mae is stunned, and desperate ... how can she live without her Jane?

How Ida Mae deals with this terrible news, and the wonderful events she creates for her dearest friend before she must leave is the warp of this story, woven in and out with the threads of their past taken from the pages of Ida Mae's diary. Written for today's woman the book celebrates the relationship between best friends, mothers and daughters, men and women, and the struggle to find hope in a time of loss. It's the tender story of two beautiful women, discovering what their lives were all about, before they must say a final goodbye. And because it's about the comfort to be found in a nice hot cup of tea, the book includes a small collection of delicious tea-time recipes.

Charlene's Review:

Ida Mae Tutweiler and the Traveling Tea Party is a beautiful, engaging story about true love. This love is the kind that only true friends can share, or understand. Life-long best friends, Ida Mae and Jane have weathered every storm that life has brought them, mostly with a cup of Earl Grey and their best china. Jane arrives for tea time one day with horrible news; she has an incurable breast cancer and has chosen to go away to die. The story flows, effortlessly, from present to past, as we grasp what this friendship means to Ida Mae, and how she chooses to deal with the loss of her best friend.

This novel was made into a Hallmark Movie in 2009, (Bound by a Secret) and I am saddened to say, I haven't seen it. I can only imagine how poignant this story was on screen. It echoes all the feelings I had when I lost my father to cancer, and that which many face at the loss of their loved ones.

My favorite paragraph summed up the biggest lesson I learned watching my father's struggle:

I think the best part of growing older is how much easier life becomes. The events, needs, and demands we perceive as vital to our survival in early years take on far less urgency. Most of them, if not achieved, really don't matter all that much anymore. Many of them are completely forgotten. What begins to matter a great deal is who you love and who loves you.

I recommend anyone who needs a reminder of this, to pick up this book. An absolutely heartbreakingly beautiful tribute to friendship.

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