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Never Say Never

5 May

If you have read my first two novels, you are familiar with Nara Blake, the protagonist in both The Gate House and Lydia’s Story.

In my new novel, due out this summer, we go back to Nara’s experiences in the fictional Caribbean nation of Saint Clare. In a sense, since the other books came out first, Hotel Saint Clare is Nara’s memories of her life on the islands before she moved to England.

In Hotel Saint Clare, Nara insists that she will never leave the islands, that she is tied there through emotional and spiritual bonds, and could never live anywhere else. But she does leave. In The Gate House and Lydia’s Story we see how she broke that promise when her father became ill and they moved to England, where she discovered a connection to a new place through her father’s side of the family.

It reminds me of the saying, “Never say never.” As soon as I make a commitment to myself that I will never do something, or never do it again, I realize that that is just what I need to do now. More than once during my career as a high school teacher, I moved temporarily to another type of work and swore I would not go back to teaching, but I did, and it wasn’t just for financial reasons. I thought I would not get married again, but I did. I thought my move to Costa Rica was a permanent one, but after seven years, here I am in Pennsylvania.

Maybe Nara and I have both learned that life has a way of opening and closing doors in unexpected ways. Nara, the girl of the islands, ends up in England. And I could end up where I started — in the Midwest. Never say never.

Because everyone likes to eat, here is a link to a recipe for “rice and beans,” Caribbean-style. This is traditional on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, but I think the people of Saint Clare would enjoy it, too.

 

Caribbean rice and beans

Caribbean rice and beans

Aside

How About a Slice of Papaya Bread?

18 Mar

Blue-Lizards-Papaya-Loreto-BCS-1-550x412

In my first novel, The Gate House, Nara laments the lack of tropical fruit as she prepares a typical English breakfast at her aunt’s bed and breakfast. I lived in Costa Rica for seven years, where I, too, learned to appreciate the huge variety of exotic fruits available year round.

 
Although Nara’s home, St. Clare, is a fictional island country in the Caribbean, the foods she enjoys are very typical of the tropics. I have enjoyed many fresh fruits, both whole and in smoothies (known as “refrescos” in Costa Rica) during my time there. One of the most common is papaya, and I don’t mean the small Hawaiian variety.
 
Papayas in Central American and the Caribbean can be as long as twenty inches, and their sweetness is indescribable. They are cheap and available everywhere, from supermarkets to small produce stands on the street. A main ingredient in a fruit salad or on a lunch plate, they also make a great smoothie with milk. Although not a traditional recipe, the following recipe for papaya bread is moist and delicious. It will work with either type of papaya, just make sure it’s ripe.
 

Papaya Bread

Cream together until light: 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup butter

Add and beat until fluffy: 2 eggs

Add: 1 cup mashed ripe papaya, 1/4 cup chopped walnuts, 1/2 cup raisins

Sift together: 1 1/2 cups flour, 1/4 tsp. baking powder, tsp. soda, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. allspice, 1/2 tsp. ground ginger.

Add flour mixture to butter mixture. Pour batter into greased and floured 9×5 loaf pan.

Bake at 325 degrees for about 1 hour 5 minutes.

 
 
In my new novel, Hotel St. Clare, which is due out in the summer, you will see what Nara was doing in the islands before she and her father moved to England. She was a girl of the tropics, walking barefoot on the beach and eating fresh fruits with rice and beans. No wonder she had difficulty adjusting to life in England!