Grace Miller has recently moved with her husband to the small island of Macau, due to her husband’s job. They have recently learned of Grace’s infertility, and she must now deal with the fact that all the dreams she had for her life and family have been shattered, possibly taking her marriage with them. She decides to open a little cafe specializing in macarons (a light French pastry that Grace associates with good memories of her mother), and the cafe brings new light and purpose to her life, as well as new friends. But Grace’s marriage has serious cracks in its foundation, and when it reaches a breaking point, she must confront the secrets of her past to move through this difficult time in her life.
I began reading The Color of Tea when I was on vacation at the beach, and I have to say that was such a good choice because this is a fantastic summer read. It’s a sweet story that deals with some heavier themes, but is easy to get into and held my attention throughout. It has so many elements of a great summer read and I really enjoyed the novel.
What drew me into this novel and kept me hanging on, more than anything else, were the characters. Grace of course was important, and I really liked her, but more significantly I loved many of the minor characters. Gigi, unexpectedly pregnant (to her mother’s dismay), a native of the island, was someone who Grace came to rely on and I felt for her the second she graced the page. Gigi had a tough exterior but there was a real softness underneath, a true person who was searching desperately for a soft place to land. And Rilla, the woman Grace hires to help her in the cafe, she became like a sister to Grace and I loved seeing their friendship grow over the course of the novel.
One thing I liked about The Color of Tea is that there are many deeper themes running through this novel, but they never make the novel feel heavy or dark in any way. Rather, they serve to balance out the softer side of the novel that is the cafe and everything fun and light that comes with that. Some of the themes include human trafficking/domestic slavery, infertility, poverty, mental illness, and infidelity. Had Tunnicliffe chose to explore any one of these themes in more detail she would have written a completely different book – instead, she explores these themes with a soft touch, in a way that brings these issues to light but doesn’t revolve the entire story around them.
If I had one quibble with The Color of Tea it would be the predictability of the plot. The book ended exactly how I expected it to, and while there’s a bit of satisfaction that comes from that, overall I like books to be slightly less predictable.
I truly enjoyed The Color of Tea and I think it makes a perfect summer read. The novel has all the elements I’ve come to expect from women’s fiction – great characters, a plot with some depth, and a story that kept me turning the pages. Recommended.