Sometimes you have to leave home first in order to truly appreciate it.
This was true for Wanda Suttle Duncan, a seventh-generation Florida resident and the author of “Cracker Gothic: A Florida Woman’s Memoir.” Like many adolescents, Duncan couldn’t wait to escape the confines of her seemingly boring hometown.
In her case, that hometown was the rural town of Green Cove Springs along the St. Johns River in Clay County.
After leaving the town for North Carolina at age eighteen, it wasn’t until she began making return trips to Green Cove Springs to take care of her aging mother that she discovered the quiet, “Eden-like” natural beauty of the place she once called home.
“Eventually it dawned on me that there were truly odd things about my little hometown that set it apart from other places,” says Duncan.
The memoir recounts Duncan’s late embrace of her hometown – prompted in part by the grief of her mother’s progressing dementia and her husband’s suicide. It offers a glimpse into “Florida Cracker” heritage and 21st century rural Florida, presenting an image of beauty as a contrast to Duncan’s heartbreaking story as she reconnects with her Florida heritage and shares stories of “snakeskins and gravestones, Spanish moss and sacred sulfur water, horses on broken sidewalks and dead goats on ice.”
“I wanted to share some of the experiences of living with a person who has dementia,” explains Duncan, “but [Green Cove Springs] is a character in my stories just as much as my mother or myself.”
Duncan will be celebrating the recent launch of “Cracker Gothic” with two upcoming local book signings. She’ll be at San Marco Books & More on Saturday, June 1, as well as Chamblin’s Uptown in downtown Jax on Saturday, June 22. “Cracker Gothic: A Florida Woman’s Memoir” is available in local bookstores as well as on Amazon.