Tea by the Sea

A baby taken from her mother at birth, an Episcopal priest with a daughter whose face he cannot bear to see, a mother weary of searching for her lost child: Tea by the Sea is their story—that of a family uniting and unraveling. To find the daughter taken from her, Plum Valentine must find the child’s father who walked out of a hospital with the day-old baby girl without explanation. Seventeen years later, weary of her unfruitful search, Plum sees an article in a community newspaper with a photo of the man for whom she has spent half her life searching. He has become an Episcopal priest. Her plan: confront him and walk away with the daughter he took from her. From Brooklyn to the island of Jamaica, Tea by the Sea traces Plum’s circuitous route to finding her daughter and how Plum’s and the priest’s love came apart.



Tea By the Sea is a powder keg of a novel, where secrets and lies explode into truth and consequences, all told with spellbinding, shattering power. Hemans doesn’t just fulfill the promise of her debut— she soars past it.”—Marlon James, Man Booker Prize Winning author of Black Leopard, Red Wolf

“The forbidden love story of Plum and Lenworth comes alive in this heart-rending novel, Tea by the Sea. Hemans has a stunning ability to give words to that elusive feeling of emptiness, and the longing for redemption is palpable. In Hemans’s deft hands, regrets are explored with precision and compassion so that the reader finds herself unable to turn against even characters who have committed the most wretched betrayals. Tea by the Sea is like the story told in a grandmother’s kitchen with the odors of fried dumplings and saltfish wafting into mouths that are set agape at the heady twists and turns delivered in an urgent and beautiful prose.” —Lauren Francis-Sharma, author of ’Til the Well Runs Dry

Tea by the Sea is an insightful and illuminating prism of a novel, deftly examining familial identity and personal transformation. Hemans turns the kaleidoscope, catching light at different angles, to show us how one person’s act of honor and responsibility can also be an act of unspeakable betrayal.” —Carolyn Parkhurst, author of The Dogs of Babel and Harmony

Thank you to the following blogs for featuring Donna Heman’s Tea by the Sea!

A photograph of a white sand beach with a woman standing on the left covering herself with a large piece of fabric and blue script towards the right that reads Tea by the Sea a Novel by Donna Hemans.

Donna Hemans ( Author Website )

Publication Date: June 9, 2020

Genre/Imprint: Fiction, Red Hen Press

$16.95 Tradepaper

Shop: Red Hen, Bookshop, Barnes & Noble

ISBN: 978-1-59709-845-8


TEA BY THE SEA listed on Electric Lit!

My mom says every mother needs a daughter. It’s not that she doesn’t love and appreciate her two sons. My middle brother knows best how to comfort her in times of grief. My younger brother is the child she buddies around with, the precious youngest by quite a few years. But I—her only daughter and […]

TEA BY THE SEA (Donna Hemans) and HER SISTER’S TATTOO (Ellen Meeropol) shortlisted for the Story Circle’s Women’s Book Awards!

The Sarton Awards are presented in four categories (memoir, historical fiction, contemporary fiction, nonfiction). The award program is named in honor of May Sarton, who is remembered for her outstanding contributions to women’s literature as a memoirist, novelist, and poet. Sarton memoirs, novels, and nonfiction books are distinguished by the compelling ways they honor the lives […]

TEA BY THE SEA wins Best Novel for the Caribbean Readers’ Award at Rebel Women Lit!

Over 1800 people readers,  we are happy to announce the winners for the Inaugural Caribbean Readers’ Award! The Caribbean Readers’ Award recognizes outstanding works in Caribbean Literature. The prize is given to one fiction novel, YA novel, middle grade/tween novel, nonfiction works, short stories, and translated literature. Rebel Women Lit also recognized individuals who embody […]

TEA BY THE SEA featured in Fordham Magazine!

In her long-awaited second novel, Donna Hemans, the author of River Woman (2002), weaves a compelling tale of longing—to belong, to find family and a sense of home, to be fulfilled, and ultimately to discover the truth.  Read more here!

Read Donna Hemans’ essay on Ploughshares!

The operator-assisted collect call comes on a July morning in 1987. It’s still early, before 9 a.m., and except for the telephone ringing, the house is quiet, my younger sister and I the only ones at home. My father is on his way to work, or already there, and my older sister and mother are […]

Q&A with Donna Hemans about her novel TEA BY THE SEA in the New York Writers Institute!

You recently published your second novel. Congratulations! Thank you. Publishing a book in the midst of a pandemic is a humbling experience, and all writers who published this year will likely tell the same story about opportunities that disappeared—whether expected book reviews, planned book tours, launch events, conference sessions. Despite some of the setbacks, I’ve […]

Donna Hemans’ heartfelt Essay: SECRETS THAT HOLD US, come read it!

“I didn’t grow up with my mother,” Mom tells me. We’re sitting on the front verandah looking out at the grass before us wilting in the afternoon sun and the dwarf coconut trees that line one side of the driveway. The coconut fronds dip with the breeze, revealing green-and yellow-husked coconuts. It’s hot on the […]

2020 Great Group Reads Selections

Women’s National Book Association features TEA BY THE SEA: The 2020 Great Group Reads selections have been chosen! This year’s list features books from a wide-range of styles and from authors with diverse backgrounds. On this list, you can find stories about social issues such as racism, immigration, LGBTQ+, mental health, and war. Click here […]

5 Books You May Have Missed in June

Each month I comb through hundreds of titles to choose the five I list here, and each month I come up with 30 to 50 that are worthy of consideration. I say that not to complain, but to urge you to look further and deeper than the New and Noteworthy promotions wherever you shop for […]

Blog Tour: Tea by the Sea

Thank you to the following blogs for featuring Donna Heman’s Tea by the Sea! The Livre Café Jessica Belmont Fiction Matters Everyday I Write the Book Never Without A Book The Book Decoder Book of Cinz Nurse Bookie This Brown Girl Reads Jennifer Tarheel Reader Book Reviews and More by Kathy Girl Who Reads Suzy […]

TBLR: Importing Color

During the ongoing shelter-in-place regime, I should be reading fiction and transporting myself to other worlds that might afford me a semblance of normality or familiarity. But I don’t seem to manage this ordinary activity of reading and escaping reality. Instead, I face the uncertainties occasioned by the pandemic by transforming pieces of furniture and […]

Repeating Islands: Donna Hemans

Donna Heman’s forthcoming novel Tea by the Sea is now available for pre-ordering. It will be released on June 9, 2020 (Red Hen Press). Marlon James (author of Black Leopard, Red Wolf) writes: “Tea by the Sea is a powder keg of a novel, where secrets and lies explode into truth and consequences, all told with spellbinding, shattering power.”

Donna Hemans And TEA BY THE SEA on Wine Women & Writing

Join Pamela Fagan Hutchins for a lovely conversation wtih Donna Hemans about her June 9, 2020 release, TEA BY THE SEA, a lyrical novel about family uniting and unraveling, set in Brooklyn and Jamaica. Bonus: Donna shares a few tips for aspiring writers as well as her inspiration for the parental kidnapping plot. TEA BY […]

Poets & Writers: Tea by the Sea

“Eight years of active searching had come to this: an abandoned house, an outdoor stove, and a doll, signs of a former life but necessarily his and hers.” In this book trailer, Donna Hemans reads an excerpt from her second novel, Tea by the Sea (Red Hen Press, 2020), which is featured in Page One in the July/August issue […]

NY Post: The best books of the week

Tea by the SeaDonna Hemans (fiction, Red Hen Press)Plum Valentine’s daughter was taken from her the day after the baby was born, snatched, without explanation, by the girl’s father. Seventeen years later, a photo of the man in a newspaper leads her to this quest: Confront the man, and take her daughter back. Featured on […]

The Rumpus: An Exploration of Belonging

Jamaica-born writer Donna Hemans has been said to hear “life sung by a chorus, not a single voice.” Her plots are as intense as thrillers yet as resonant as poetry, and the lyricism and emotional honesty of her work has earned her comparisons to Jamaica Kincaid and Edwidge Danticat. When released in 2001, her debut novel River Woman won the Towson […]

Washington Independent Review of Books: An Interview with Donna Hemans

At 15, Plum Valentine is banished from her Brooklyn home and sent back to Jamaica by parents nervous about the pernicious effects of the American lifestyle. Once there, her trust in her parents shattered, she turns to her chemistry teacher, Lenworth Barrett, for solace. Soon, she is pregnant and planning a life with Lenworth.

Electric Lit: I Can Only Save My Grandparents’ Home by Preserving It in Fiction

In the bedroom of Harlem Renaissance poet Anne Spencer, there’s a mural depicting a well-dressed crowd at a cocktail party pasted to the wall. Spencer’s granddaughter, Shaun Spencer-Hester, points to small black lines that outline the teeth of some in the crowd: a handful of them, chest-high or so, the only faces Shaun could reach […]


Caribbean Beats reviews Donna Hemans TEA BY THE SEA

“But the one thing I know for sure, this is the one life you have and you have to make it work.” Some novels make the meat and bones of their plot out of one shining secret; Tea by the Sea feasts on a profusion of furtive mysteries. In Jamaica-born Donna Hemans’s second novel, winner of a Lignum […]

Midwest Book Review: Tea by the Sea

A deftly crafted and entertaining work of impressive literary nuance, “Tea by the Sea” by Donna Hemans is an extraordinary, original, and inherently fascinating novel that is especially and unreservedly commended as an addition to both community and college/university library Contemporary Literary Fiction collections. One of those all too rare novels that will linger in […]

Donna Hemans, “Tea by the Sea” Review

A new father walks out of the hospital with his day-old baby while the mother recuperates from giving birth. He tells a series of lies and moves houses or countries whenever the truth gets too close. The young, broken-hearted mother devotes herself to searching for her missing daughter. Alternating between Jamaica and Brooklyn, NY, she […]

Blog Tour: Tea by the Sea

Thank you to the following blogs for featuring Donna Heman’s Tea by the Sea! The Livre Café Jessica Belmont Fiction Matters Everyday I Write the Book Never Without A Book The Book Decoder Book of Cinz Nurse Bookie This Brown Girl Reads Jennifer Tarheel Reader Book Reviews and More by Kathy Girl Who Reads Suzy […]

KIRKUS: Tea by the Sea

A young mother goes on a quest to track down the father of her child, who abducted their baby daughter shortly after her birth. When Plum Valentine is in high school in Brooklyn, her immigrant parents plan a seemingly routine visit to their native Jamaica. Once there, however, the parents insist that Plum stay behind, […]