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October 28, 2019

In Homer’s latest work of nonfiction, she describes the challenges of growing an organic garden on her farm in Costa Rica. During a difficult year, her friendship with Evelio, the gardener, grows, as Homer finds herself remembering and reckoning with long-buried memories.

You’ve lived in Costa Rica for almost 30 years. What prompted the move to such a beautiful place?

Aside from the burnout both my then-husband and I were feeling, it was pure dumb luck to run into an honorary consul from Costa Rica who made it sound so easy to get residency here. We had spoken about making a change in our stress-filled business lives, a search for a kinder climate, an easier lifestyle, the chance to do what we really wanted... and here was Costa Rica waiting for us. It was too good to be true. It took us 18 months to put it all together, but we embarked on a very different, and often difficult, new life.

With a memoir, how do you make sure you are telling “the truth,” or how do you refresh your memories when writing?

Truth is a tricky thing, because memory isn’t perfect. I’ve discovered, for instance, that my sister and I remember the same events differently. Consciously looking backward through the filters of age and lived experience, a lot of memories come into a more distinct focus. And, as a writer, you want to tell a coherent story. It’s a balancing act. Above all, you want to be honest with yourself—as long as you’re doing that, you’re telling the only truth you can.

How was writing Evelio’s Garden different from writing your other travel memoirs?

First, Evelio is not a travel memoir. The only similarity to my other books is that they were written as events were unfolding—in Evelio’s case, the story of the garden and the changes in the natural world around me. Putting key events from the past into perspective is another exercise altogether, sometimes quite painful, with the objective of achieving greater self-understanding, even forgiveness. This memoir takes place in Costa Rica because here I’ve finally reached the age where I can tell it.

How do you imagine readers at this moment will connect to your book?

There’s a lot going on in this book: lyrical descriptions of the natural world in one of the most biodiverse countries on the planet, cultural clashes between Evelio and me that are both comical and frustrating, the early signs of climate change in the tropics, what it’s like to live in rural Central America, organic gardening and sustainable living in the Costa Rica of the 19th century, excerpts from my personal story that provide needed background, and my discovery of great spiritual strength in the natural world.

Have you ever thought about writing fiction?

What writer hasn’t thought about it? I’ve published one flash fiction piece, and there are a couple of short stories I think are good enough to be published but haven’t found a home yet. There are about 100 pages of a novel that I will probably never finish, although I’m looking at it again. All this is to say that I really think nonfiction is my métier—I’m certainly more comfortable in it!