Ever since our trip to the British Virgin Islands, I've been doing nothing but reading about the Caribbean. I feel like I could read about it forever. Here are the three I've made it through so far:
The Autobiography of My Mother, by Jamaica Kincaid
An incredibly written story about the Caribbean from the perspective of a native of these islands that look like paradise to us well-off vacationers and prison to the impoverished natives who have never known anything else. I enjoyed the book up to a point, but it was almost too negative, too lacking in redemption. And while it was beautifully written, I wasn't entirely sure I got it. It's one of those you wish you had read in a college course and a professor could help you with the tricky bits. I blogged about it on my other site here.
An Embarrassment of Mangoes, by Ann Vanderhoof
A fascinating story of a couple who, at 45, ditch the rat race and spend two years sailing from Canada to the Caribbean and back. Spending an extended period on a sailboat is one of the secret dreams that Mr. SOC and I share, so I found this book especially interesting. She describes the experience so well, and in such detail, that I feel like I would know exactly what I was getting into if I decided to sail to the Caribbean. It reaffirmed my desire to find some way to make this fantasy happen. But she and her husband had a couple advantages I don't: They made a lot of money, so could save a lot, and they have no children. That makes taking off for two years in the Caribbean a hell of a lot easier. But maybe a more truncated version of the trip would be realistic for us. One day, one day...
Two on the Isle, by Robb White
This book is out of print, so I feel bad telling you how much I adore it. This is the second time I've read it, and I enjoyed it every bit as much as the first. White and his wife Rodie bought one of the British Virgin Islands, a tiny one called Marina Cay, for $60 in the 1930s and lived on it, alone, for several years. They moved onto this little rock sticking out of the sea without shelter or a water supply or any means of communication with the outside world. Their only mode of transportation was a motorless sailboat.
For a while they lived a beautiful life there, until Rodie got sick, the British Empire stole their land and Robb had to go fight in World War II. They never returned, even though they both lived another 50 years. This book is full of humor and fabulous anecdotes and illuminating stories about the natives and nuggets of BVI history and flashes of insight, and it captures the true love that he felt for his wife, despite their eventual divorce. His story about their failed attempt to catch an octopus with their bare hands, an effort that ended with the live octopus sucked onto both their faces at once, is priceless. We got this book through interlibrary loan, and it's not due until September. It is only about 150 pages, and I'm thinking of reading it over and over until the due date. I just love it so much.