The Coconut Latitudes by Rita Gardner (She Writes Press 2014) just won the Gold Medal for Autobiography/Memoir at the 2015 IBPA Benjamin Franklin Awards. Well deserved. It is a poignant and tragic tale which takes place in the exotic village of Miches in the Dominican Republic. It took me a single afternoon to read, as Gardner enfolded me in her consistently gracious voice which begins telling the tale when she is 4 and expands into greater scope and understanding as she becomes an adult.
Gardner has lived a rich story of a life, including unfathomable indignities and abuse at the hands of her narcissistic father and her passive, defeated mother. Her tale conveys a spark of compassion to the reader. If forgiveness can bloom for the Gardner family, then there is hope for us all.
Gardner stimulates all of our senses, and we are brought tingling into her story. Her descriptions are colorful and engaging: “In the Dominican Republic the land curves up into mountains, slides down into ragged bays and undulating meadows. Roads slither like snakes, and even some hovels are decorated with trills of curving iron railings. Florida looks more like a geometry lesson. ” Or “Mrs. Porter opens the front door with a hug that smells like the apple pie she’s baking.”
If you find yourself in a sunny clime (or even a clime that is marginally more sunny than last winter was), take along this for a poignant, entertaining afternoon.