1 out of 4 stars
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Tea with Nanny by Andrea Simmons is a Southern novel tracing three generations of women living on a Tennessee farm. The novel follows the lives of Josephine (Nanny), Elizabeth (Birdie) and Willow. The book is divided into three sections, one for each female character, with the first two told from Birdie’s point-of-view and the third, from Willow’s.
Birdie, whose mother was killed in a car accident when she was eight, lives on the family farm with her grandparents, Nanny and Cecil Crow. Her father, Jon O’Connor, wanders in and out of Birdie’s life with various girlfriends and in varying degrees of drunkenness. Nanny and Cecil also have a daughter, Ophelia, who takes on the role of pampering Birdie by buying her school clothes and taking her out for lunch. Ophelia sees herself as giving Birdie someone a little more sophisticated with whom to share her problems. Through Birdie’s eyes, we are given the story of her life with her grandparents. Their struggles and celebrations are told with obvious affection. Nanny is Cherokee and teaches Birdie Native American traditions. They weather the death of Cecil, and when Nanny dies from complications of Alzheimer’s, Birdie takes over the farm. As she sorts through Nanny’s belongings, Birdie discovers she wishes to learn more about her family, especially her mother. Eventually, she is abandoned by a boyfriend and left alone with her daughter, Willow, and she finds she must come to terms with her father’s abandonment and her mother’s death in order to find peace. When Birdie grows old, she is also diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and it is Willow who must now step in to be her caretaker.
The content of Tea with Nanny is interesting, and there are plenty of touching moments between Birdie and Nanny, and in turn Birdie and Willow, but it is hard to get a grasp on the narrative because of the novel’s lack of structure. The book is divided into three parts, one for each of the main characters, but there are no sub-divisions. The lack of chapters makes the reading tedious and at times confusing as the narrative jumps from one scene to the next without transition. The book is mostly written in exposition, which also leads to a lack of readability, slowing the narrative down. This is a real shame because the story is intriguing with its interpersonal relationships, plot twists and wonderfully descriptive passages.
The book’s many grammatical errors further hurt its readability, and there are a few structural problems with scenes and themes that are introduced in a dramatic way, but then are barely mentioned again. For example, in one dramatic scene near the beginning of the book, it is revealed that Nanny and Cecil have been seeing UFO’s, but the storyline is dropped except for a couple of small mentions near the end of the book, leaving the reader with unanswered questions.
I rate this book 1 out of 4 because of the lack of editing and structure. If the book were restructured and professionally edited, it would be a much better read. It is still an interesting story for anyone who likes to read about life in the South, but one that could be so much better.
Tea With Nanny
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