Item description for The Tea House by Paul Elwork...
Do you want to know a secret? Emily Stewart has a secret. So does her brother, Michael. Thirteen years old, precocious and privileged, the Stewart twins are just beginning to learn the power of secrets. But what starts as a game among their small circle of friends soon grows out of control; Emily and Michael's secret spills into the adult world, where secrets can be deadly.
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Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 8.9" Width: 5.9" Height: 0.5" Weight: 0.4 lbs.
Release Date Oct 1, 2007
Publisher Casperian Books LLC
ISBN 1934081078 ISBN13 9781934081075
Reviews - What do customers think about The Tea House?
An Evocative Gothic Gem Aug 31, 2008
I loved this book. I slipped into it the way one might walk into a tea house on a summer afternoon and hours later I came out, having been transported. It has that rare combination of beautiful language, intense and interesting characters, an intriguing plot and enough suspense to keep you turning the pages even when you want to stop and savor the writing.
The Tea House suggests that the author has more wonderful stories to share with us - stories that I personally can't wait for.
A Haunting Read Jun 22, 2008
I went into Paul Elwork's The Tea House (Casperian Books) guessing that I wouldn't like it. Thirteen-year-old main character. Historical novel (set in 1925). Some hint that the paranormal would be involved. It's just not the type of novel I gravitate toward. How ironic, then, that it is for these three reasons, and others, that I really loved this book.
I don't pretend to be a book reviewer. There are already some great reviews on this site.com about The Tea House. In short, the book follows twins Michael and Emily Stewart, and what happens to them when Emily discovers that she can make a disembodied knocking sound with her ankle. They use the sound to trick neighborhood kids into believing that Emily can communicate with ghosts. Eventually, they have the opportunity to trick adults . . . and that's where things get, well, tricky. And complicated.
It's funny how in a book with a teenage protagonist that the real focus is on the adults. They are the ones who, made weak by life's trials, turn to reclusiveness, abandonment, manipulation, reinvention, and despair. Throughout the book, it is the past that haunts these characters and keeps them from fully living in the present. Even when seemingly forgiven for their transgressions, they can't let the past go. It reminds me of how I often feel. When I was thirteen, I think I felt like I understood life better than I do now at thirty-eight. Like the characters in The Tea House, I often feel like I'm floundering -- wishing for ways to relive the past and make a few different decisions.
For a 168-page book, The Tea House is very complex and weaves together many different sub-plots and characters. Loss. Mourning. Discovery. Empowerment. Clandestine Love. Betrayal. Given its brevity, that's a lot. Still, Elwork pulls it off because he's such a skilled writer. I really enjoyed reading and then rereading some of his sentences. After having Emily visit with a group of ladies who desperately want to communicate with the ghosts of their past, Elwork writes, "She knew, even then, though she could hardly tell herself so, that the fear the ladies sat down with on that afternoon had been tended so long it had become hope." At another point, Emily discovers a locked drawer in her mother's bedroom, the contents of which her mother uses to commune with her past, and Elwork writes, "It was not lost on Emily that locks on interior doors, cabinets, chests, and dressers protected those within the locked doors of a house from one another."
The Tea House is haunted by the past of its characters. In the end, what most of us have are the stories of what we've been through and how we judge ourselves in the actions and failed actions of those stories. Elwork writes of Emily, "For all she could see, the trees may as well have sprawled away from the Delaware in a vast and continuous forest out to the Atlantic Ocean, a forest full of all the stories told by the people leaving broken arrowheads along the river; living stories that clung to the trees in the same way things waited in the earth; stories upon stories falling backward in time to the sea."
I'm going to miss this book. I like this creation of Elwork's. It felt mysterious and good to live there for a time with his characters. I remember circling page 102 because it was at that point that I couldn't stop reading. I was supposed to go online and track a package due to arrive for our daughter's birthday. My wife was pretty insistent that I track this package (it was late), but I found myself sitting on the couch in front of the laptop with The Tea House in my hands - turning to the next page and then the next, unable to put it down to do the task at hand. I was risking spousal retribution; I mean, that's got to be a good book.
So, what I'm saying is that I thought The Tea House was a good book. A really good book. You should read it. Don't borrow it. Don't buy it used. Buy it from Casperian Books. One of the important things about The Tea House is that it came out from a small press. Small presses need your support.
A Taste of Tea--not the Whole Cup Jun 16, 2008
Paul Elwork's "The Tea House" is a bold first novel, entering the strange, secretive world of two children who discover a way to convince others they can contact the dead. The book's based loosely on the real-life Fox sisters, notorious mediums who seem to have begun the whole table-rapping craze. It sets out how siblings Emily and Michael get more and more involved in the private griefs of the adults around them. Rapidly, the two move far out of their depth, struggling with adults who depend on them for emotional support, desperately wanting to believe what they know isn't true. What starts as a fun game leads to despair and death.
Although Emily is the table-rapper, it's Michael who manipulates her and all those around them, cajoling then bullying her into co-operating. We see scenes from Michael's point of view, but his motivations remain obscure. He's almost fierce in not caring for other people. It's power over them he seeks, regardless of the emotional cost.
Unfortunately, this novel has been pruned within an inch of its life. In his author's note, Elwork remarks that he's boiled the novel down to its essence. What's essence to the author--who knows everything that's not in there as well as what is--may be only highlights for the reader. The book skips along, somewhat episodically, and the feeling persists that there's a lot left unsaid. This sense of jaggedness, of disconnection, isn't helped by the frequent changes of point of view. Reading The Tea House is a bit like dipping into a longer novel at infrequent intervals.
We can hope for even better things from this author once he hits his stride.
[review by Debbie Moorhouse of GUD Magazine]
a great read Jan 29, 2008
While this novel does start out a bit on the slow side, it quickly delves into a story that you can't help but get caught up in. At the center of the story are thirteen year old twins, Michael and Emily. When Emily one day discovers she can make a strange "knocking" sound from her ankle, she decides to play a prank on her brother; making him believe that he is seeing and hearing a ghost. From this escapade, the twins give birth to the idea of "ghost knocking." Performing for their friends, convincing them that Emily is capable of communicating with spirits from beyond.
As Emily prepares for these knocking sessions, she begins to delve into the past lives of those from the other side she is supposedly communicating with. It's tough to really give an accurate synopsis of this book without giving away a lot of the mystery and surprise. I guess you'll just have to go out and get a copy and read it for yourself. Don't give up on, stay with it. It's a wonderful story, with many sub plots inside. You'll ponder it for days after you've finished it..
Oh ,what a tangled web we weave... Jan 3, 2008
Review by Tim Gleichner
"Oh, what a tangled web we weave..." The first part of that quote seems quite an appropriate place to start the review of "The Tea House" by Paul Elwork.
The story concerns a set of twins, Emily and Michael Stewart. While their family is well-to-do, their home life is a bit mysterious and at times I sensed a bit of sadness. Emily discovers she has a unique "talent" one day, and initially has some fun with it. But once her twin, Michael, discovers her secret, he convinces Emily to expand their performances to include friends of theirs. Eventually, word of Emily's talent gets out, and Emily and Michael are drawn into the adult world, where their audiences are more than curious. And when adult curiosity about Emily's talent is mixed with genuine desperation/grief, the ending is unpredictable and shocking.
This book is extremely well written. Mr. Elwork does an excellent job of developing the story and bringing together characters in the story and the story itself in equal portions, so that the farther along the book goes, the more characters and circumstances fit together, giving the reader a more detailed understanding of the story.
The characters of Emily, Michael, and Mr. Dunne are extremely well developed. The detail given to these characters made it quite easy to conjure a picture in my mind as to what they might actually have looked like.
This book held my interest from beginning to end. I liked the story line and the author's writing style makes this a very easy read.
And here are answers to the author questions:
Who are you influenced by as an author? The list is long, as I guess it is for everyone. I love the works of Kurt Vonnegut, James Salter, Alice Munro, John Irving, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Raymond Carver, Jhumpa Lahiri, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Flannery O'Connor, Charles Dickens... and on and on. And like any writer, my debt to them is immeasurable.
Do you plan on writing a sequel to this book, or do you have something else in the works? I don't have any plans for a sequel to The Tea House, but I do have another novel in the works, this one set during the early days of the Holocaust in Germany. I'd say more, but that would be telling.
This book was published by Casperian Books, a small, independent company that publishes fiction. It is a single-member limited liability company that publishes fiction and operates out of a chaotic home office with some help from the other occupants of the house and a few hearty volunteers. To view their other books, please click on the link above.
A copy of The Tea House will be raffled off to a reader the first week of February. Please visit the website at www.uponfurtherreview.org and sign the guestbook under this book. Your name will be entered in the drawing.
Winners will be announced on the website under Raffle Winners. Good luck and have a great day!