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EVELIO'S GARDEN by Sandra Shaw Homer


Memoir of a Naturalist in Costa Rica

by Sandra Shaw Homer

Publisher: Atmosphere Press

A self-described naturalist shares her experiences living in Costa Rica in a memoir that overflows with descriptions of flora and fauna.

In 1990, Homer (Journey to the Joie de Vivre, 2016, etc.) and her then-husband left their busy lives in Philadelphia for the more tranquil environment of Costa Rica. Six years later, their marriage ended, but they both remained in the country, and Homer eventually remarried. She and her new husband bought a small house with a view of Lake Arenal and the active Arenal Volcano in the northern highlands, ultimately building a larger house on the property, which bordered the jungle. It was during the building of this house that she met Evelio, a 40-something local who worked in construction. The couple didn’t know that Evelio’s true passion was agriculture until he asked to use a small portion of their land to cultivate an organic farm. Homer’s memoir traces the disappointments, frustrations, and small successes of Evelio’s struggle over several years to make his garden profitable. She also offers an extensive ecological survey of her little piece of Costa Rica. An environmental activist, Homer became a Costa Rican citizen in 2002, in part to limit the risk of deportation when she stood up to government policies, and also because her soul found peace there. This book is adapted from Homer’s copious journal entries, local newspaper articles that she wrote, and her blog posts. Only a few sections specifically focus on catching readers up on her personal life. For the most part, the conversational prose is rich in detail about the wide variety of trees, flowers, fruits, and vegetables that blanket the area, and there are some wonderful stories about various wildlife that Homer has encountered. A vignette in which she creates a makeshift bridge for a band of monkeys is particularly delightful: “Monkeys avoid the ground, where they’re more vulnerable to predators, and the third papaya tree was just out of reach.” Homer pays scant attention to timelines in this memoir, leading to a surprise in the “10 years later” epilogue. The book also includes a helpful Spanish-English glossary.

A remembrance that effectively captures one woman’s connection with nature in Central America.