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Charlotte Amalie
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HomeNewsLocal newsWomen of Tea Cup & Book Club Celebrate 25 Years of Friendship

Women of Tea Cup & Book Club Celebrate 25 Years of Friendship

The Tea Cup & Book Club members celebrated 25 years at their most recent meeting in February. (Photo courtesy of Mary Ann LaFleur)

There’s really no criteria to join the Tea Cup & Book Club — you can be anyone from anywhere, as long as you’re invited, but you do, according to founder Hannah Adams, have to own an “actual tablecloth” with “actual napkins,” and you absolutely can’t belong to another discussion group.

The reason why? For as long as the club has been meeting — more than two decades now — the ritual of taking a deep dive into the book of the month has been accompanied by an elegant tea, with finger foods and, going beyond the discussion, catching up with one another. More than just a book club, Adams said, the group is rooted in the friendship of its members, which is now rebuilding its rhythm after a pandemic-hiatus.

But, when they get together, it’s like not a moment has been lost, even with Adams meeting mostly by phone from her home in Florida. At age 90, she’s just as active as ever, and lately, they’ve been gathering on the members’ front porches or at tables at Magens Bay, the sound of the waves breaking any gaps in conversation.

Not that there really are any — and that’s what inspired the group’s newest member, Mary Ann LaFleur, to reach out an offer a glimpse into the club and its history.

“It’s definitely the longest-running book club on island, but more than that, it’s a support network,” she said. “It’s unusual for anything to persist for 25 years, but a lot of these women, they worked together or grew up together. To me, anything that’s sustainable means that it is meaningful — that it has value.”

Of course, the story started with Adams but also with members Judi Richardson, Joyce Caron, and Noreen Esannason, who worked together decades ago at the Department of Human Services. The ladies would share a cup of tea after work or during breaks and talk over the books they’d been reading — a habit Adams said she didn’t want to break after they retired from the agency.

“I said, ‘We should start a book club’ — and we’ve been meeting ever since,” she said during a recent phone interview, adding that the first official get-together was in August of 1997. “To commemorate the occasion, the first book picked was If Teacups Could Talk, which also set the tone for some of the group’s ‘tea etiquette.'”

The group got together for a photo after their first meeting in 1997. (Photo courtesy of Mary Ann LaFleur)

Since then, the reading list has run the gamut between bestsellers, historical fiction, and, more recently even a biography-inspired novel or two, which LaFleur said were her favorite. Among the members, some of the best picks have included Where the Crawdads Sing, The Help and A Woman of Substance — all pieces with dynamic female leads.

By the time LaFleur joined, the membership had been pretty steady — others include Doreen Walsh, Josie Kean, Jonetta Darden Hill, Gloria Blake Loberg, Cecelia Thomas, Joyce Caron, Abigail Hutchins, Sara Podger, Zoraida Berry, Lise Ann Banfield and Jeannie O’Day — but after meeting two of the members at church, she realized that she had been recruited.

“I love to read,” LaFleur said recently. “Beyond what we read every month, I think I’m always adding books on my own, so it has been wonderful being able to do something I love so much. Even more than that, the experience has been so enjoyable — like a gift. The time spent together has been amazing, and these women are amazing.”

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