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Chai Tea Sunday

Chai Tea Sunday

No relation

ECW Press

Clark, Heather A.




2013-05-07 14:49:09: Nomination was created
2013-05-07 17:05:23: payment successful from Paypal (order 65)

Erin Creasey

Sales and Marketing Director

ECW Press

Feature film


Heather A. Clark was born and raised in St. Catharines, Ontario. A graduate of the University of Guelph with a Bachelor of Commerce degree, this is her first novel. She currently lives in Oakville, Ontario.

Over 10,000 copies sold in Canada over its first year on the market. Chai Tea Sunday resonates with female readers and has proven to be an ideal book club and beach read. Audiobook rights sold to Audible. According to the Sacramento Book Review: “This is a novel worth reading, one that will make you cry with both sadness and joy, one you will likely still be thinking about days or even weeks later.”

After fertility issues lead to devastating tragedy, Nicky’s marriage crumbles. Unable to cope, she accepts a teaching position in Kenya, hoping to find strength.

One woman’s courage in the face of personal tragedy is at the heart of Heather A. Clark’s debut novel. Thirty-three-year-old Nicky Fowler thought her whole life was mapped out — a rewarding career as a third grade teacher, an adoring husband, and the perfect house in the suburbs — but complicated fertility issues lead to a devastating tragedy. Nicky’s marriage crumbles and she’s left unable to cope with her now-changed life. When Nicky accepts a volunteer teaching position at an orphanage in Kenya, she finds that life there is unlike the world she’s known. Drought has brought famine, violence is everywhere, and the jaded orphanage director takes out her hatred on the parentless children. But Nicky finds strength in Mama Bu, her host mother, who provides wisdom and perspective over cups of chai, Kenya’s signature drink. Nicky comes to realize that she must do much more than teach the orphans — she must save them.

Nicky, a third-grade teacher and wife, desperately wants a child. Eric, her husband is the perfect man. When they get pregnant, they are elated, but upon delivering a very sick baby girl who lives for only a few hours, the grief tears them apart. Eric throws himself into his work because he can’t or won’t give Nicky the support she needs to cope. The tragedy is too much for them to overcome, and they divorce. Nicky’s sister Maggie, a free spirit who came home from traveling the globe, helps to care for her and provide support. Perhaps the most important character is Abuya (Mama Bu), Nicky’s host mother while she is staying in Kenya. Mama Bu provides her with strength and wisdom while Nicky is still reeling from the loss of her daughter and her marriage, and helps her acclimate to the demands of teaching in a Kenyan orphanage.

One major theme is love and relationships. The marriage breakdown that Nicky and Eric go through is a contemporary relationship crisis that many can relate to. Despite the fact that Nicky and Eric are meant to be together, they face a tragedy that is too great for them to overcome and their marriage crumbles. Another theme is a journey of healing. Nicky is searching for peace and fulfillment after leaving her life behind, trying to find a way to move on after such a loss. Nicky initially makes the decision to go because she thinks she will be able to help the orphans, but she ultimately realizes that they give her way more than she could ever give them.

The scenic beauty of Kenya and the community of the orphanage would be wonderful to view through the medium of film. The plight of the children living in the orphanage is wonderfully described in the book, but seeing it would really resonate with viewers in a way that reading about a scene doesn’t always accomplish.

Female Teens
Women 18–34
Women 35–54

This story is comparable to Eat Pray Love. For the same reason that so many readers responded to Eat, Pray, Love (or at least the concept of the book), people will live vicariously through Nicky and her decision to leave Canada and fly to Africa, ultimately leading to a journey of healing. It is also similar in tone to books by Anita Shreve (The Pilot’s Wife and others), that have been adapated for film and television.

Our time in the house officially ended with the ring of our doorbell
on a crisp Saturday morning in October. I opened the front door to
find three burly men, standing side-by-side in sweat-stained clothes that seemed to have been washed but permanently marked by too many long days of lugging boxes and furniture.
“You Nicky?” the largest of the three men asked. “We’re here to
move your stuff.”
I opened the door wider, just as Eric came down the stairs, his
hair still damp from his morning shower. His crisp, clean jeans and
button-down shirt stood in stark contrast to the movers’ faded T-shirts and sweats. As Eric passed me to shake hands and introduce himself to the movers, I breathed in the smell of his shampoo. It smelled of familiarity, mixed with a blend of lavender and mint.
As the men got to work, they took turns glancing at me in a way
that seemed to inherently suggest they all knew it was one of those sad moving situations. Maybe it was just me being paranoid, or perhaps it was because the boxes were clearly marked with an E or an N, and the movers were instructed to carry each box to the appropriately identified van, both of which were parked on our street.
“His versus hers,” I heard one of the movers mutter underneath
his breath as he carried an oversized box down our stairs, leaving a smudge of back sweat against the wall as he went. And that’s exactly how it had been for the previous month as we divided our belongings. Wedding china for me, flat-screen tv for him. Couch for me, dining room table for him.
It had actually been relatively easy dividing up our assets. Much
easier than I had heard so many people complain about in the movies. Maybe it was because Eric and I had somehow remained cordial in our last few months together. Or maybe it was because neither of us really gave a shit about the possessions that had found their way into our home. After all, it was just stuff.
When the last boxes were loaded, we took turns saying goodbye to
the empty house and, finally, each other. As hard as it was, we agreed to no contact. I knew that seeing Eric again, talking to him — well, it would just make it harder. I needed a clean break. A new start. A world without him.
I used my half of the money we made on the sale of our house
to purchase a small, one-bedroom condo in the heart of downtown.
I needed to get out of suburbia and my new home came with the city buzz I was craving, and the promise of watching baseball games and concerts from my balcony when the stadium roof was open. It was the start of my new normal.
Except my new normal was lined with insomnia. I lay awake all
night, every night, and wondered why I couldn’t keep a classroom of Grade 3 kids in check the next day. Every time I closed my eyes, I had hospital room nightmares that led to crying fits into my pillow. Each new day, I would drag myself through the morning motions of getting ready, and hoped that under-eye concealer would be that day’s secret weapon. It never worked and I knew I wasn’t fooling anyone. Eventually, my principal called me on it, saying that she could be somewhat lenient given the circumstances, but that I needed to focus on pulling myself together. Soon. I tried sleeping pills. Three different kinds, in fact. But I lay awake right through them. Night after night, I got up, frustrated and tired of crying, to surf through any mindless internet sites that would prevent Eric and Ella memories from sinking in.
I scoured Facebook, but was bombarded with recently posted pictures of the gorgeous, smiling faces of my friends’ children. I left the site, turning to Perez Hilton and certain I would be granted mindless, numbing entertainment. The first article I read was on John Travolta and his daughter Ella Bleu. Bye-bye Perez.
One night, over my token dinner for one, I picked up the phone
to call Eric; he was the only person who knew exactly how I was feeling, and I craved his touch and understanding. I needed him.
I made it through all of the numbers but one before I forced myself
to hang up. The Eric I knew was gone to me. He had been replaced by a stranger, and there was nothing I could do to get him back. We were finished. It was over.
I clicked the phone off. Then on again. Off. On. Off. On.
Numb, I listened to the dial tone fill the silence of the empty
room. Eventually it was replaced by the loud alarm bursts designed to tell you the phone is off the hook. The sound hurt my brain.
I scraped my untouched food into the garbage and climbed into
bed without brushing my teeth or washing my face. I stared into the
darkness, waiting for sleep to find me. It didn’t come.
The following Tuesday I fell asleep at my desk while my students were writing in their journals. Unfortunately for me, my principal walked by at that precise moment. She requested an end-of-the-day meeting, which ended up marking the end of my time at the school. At least temporarily. I was strongly encouraged to take a semester leave of absence, and was assured the position would be mine to retrieve come the following fall. “Go to the beach, Nicky. Take the vacation you’ve always wanted. Climb a mountain. Go skydiving. Whatever you need to clear your head,” my principal encouraged. Deep down I knew she was right. I wasn’t the same teacher she had hired, and it wasn’t fair to the students.
The problem was I didn’t want to do any of those things she had
suggested. It wasn’t that I didn’t have dreams, it was just that every
line item on my bucket list had included Eric. We had talked about
seeing the glowworms in the Waitomo Caves in Auckland together. He was going to be my dive buddy when we learned to scuba dive on the Great Barrier Reef. I had always imagined holding his hand as I took in the awesomeness of Egypt’s Great Pyramid of Giza. And we had always planned on hiking the tiny paths of the Inca Trail, one following the other. Our life list was long, and was too quickly cut short by the undefeatable heartbreak that was out of our control. In the middle of the night after my principal had delivered her blow, I was having a typical 2 a.m. date with my computer. I abandoned my meaningless night surfing and googled: how teachers can help in other parts of the world.
My computer was flooded with options, but eventually the online
path I followed took me to a company that was recruiting teacher volunteers for small towns in Africa. I got sucked into the details, reading everything I could find on what it would be like to actually leave my current depressing world and enter a brand new one — one without any memories of Eric or the tragedy we had experienced together.
The company was searching for qualified teachers who could help
support African teachers in the orphanage classrooms of small towns on a volunteer basis. They would stay with screened and approved host families who would provide safety, shelter and food to their home stays. Commitment times were variable and could be flexible based on the volunteer teacher’s willingness and availability. I made a mental note to call the volunteer company the next day to find out more details about what I needed to do before leaving.
For the first time in over a year, I felt a sense of hope. I needed to
be freed of everything encircling my world that emphasized what I no longer had — and would never have again. I needed to be as far away from Eric as I could imagine. Being within a drivable distance of him was too painful, too distracting and too tempting.
Most of all, I needed to find a way to stop feeling the pain I had
been going through since Ella’s death. I needed to feel other things.
Happy things.
I knew that by giving back — by giving what I could to the world’s
most unfortunate children — I would somehow find some sense of
reward, even if just a little bit. I would do something that I could feel
good about doing.
It was the only way; I would drown in sorrow unless I did something completely opposite of the world I knew. Best of all, I could do it while staying true to the one thing I loved — teaching.
That night, for the first time in months, I slept like a baby.

All women can find something relatable in Nicky’s story, from the breakdown of her marriage, her inability to have a child, and her search for meaning after a tragic loss and life setback. The audience is as triumphant Nicky when she finally finds what it is she’s been searching for.

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