Archive for the ‘El Salvador’ Category

StillLoveIf you were to ask me what Still Love in Strange Places is about, I’d think for a minute and tell you it’s a family saga, a la James Michener’s Hawaii, but shorter and more succinct. I’d tell you it’s about a wife’s attempt to understand the pull of her husband’s native land, a war-torn, volcano/earthquake prone El Salvador, on him, his present, past and future. I’d tell you it’s about a mother’s desire to leave her son a legacy from a far off place, stories, relatives, knowledge. I’d also tell you it’s about the good people, people who care about others less fortunate, loyalty, and humanity. And I’d tell you that most of all, it’s about family.

I, like Ms. Kephart, grew up in suburban America and the family stories and history I can leave my children are scant. They never really knew their grandparents who were born here, let alone my grandparents who were eastern European transplants. There were never stories passed down to me that I can pass along to the next generation. So I understand Ms. Kephart’s desire to give herself and her son something more. And it’s quite a family that Ms. Kephart married into: extensive, successful, caring, loving.

Still Love provides some history for context, but it’s mostly impressions and feelings. Being a shy person myself, I can’t imagine her first visit to El Salvador, plunked in the midst of a group of Spanish speaking family she’d never met and not understanding the language. Add onto that, its violent history and abject poverty, and any suburbanite would be  ‘out of his/her element’, to say the least.

Beth brings all this together in a wonderfully written, entrancing memoir. El Salvador becomes real. The family becomes real. Ms. Kephart’s photos at the beginning of each chapter add vision to what the mind imagines as you read the book. However, there are photos one would love to see that aren’t there. She mentions a time when she and Bill are sitting in a tree and someone took their picture. Or the beautiful girl, Ana Gabriella, Beth’s niece by marriage, whose mother has disappeared.

The one thing I can understand is the El Salvadorian’s ties to the land. She describes the painstaking process her in-laws went through to buy farmland and get it ready for planting coffee. I can understand the draw of growing crops, the beauty as they mature and bear fruit. Spending a lot of weekends in farm country, the beauty of rolling hills, of black dirt, of row upon row of growing things is overwhelming and, were I to own a piece of that, I would do everything in my power to keep it. So it is no surprise that after an earthquake destroys their farm, the first thing Bill’s mother thinks about is rebuilding.

I just realized how much I’ve rambled, so I’ll end by saying Still Love in Strange Places will take you to far off places and bring you back home again, all the wiser for the journey.

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