A few years ago, we met our nephew’s wife at the beach. Her brother had come to visit. My husband’s family is from Kenya’s coast, but his nephew’s wife is from inland. Her brother had never seen the ocean before. We got to witness the pure joy of his first beach visit: a grown man, fully clothed, splashing in the Indian Ocean, taking selfies, laughing. It was so pure and beautiful. And it is a very nice beach, too.
I grew up as a domestic nomad, but I spent more years of my childhood on the Texas gulf coast than anywhere else (in 4 different towns). I don’t remember my first beach visit. For a family on a budget, there’s no better free summer fun than a trip to the beach. Free fun, but when I first took my husband to the free beach at Surfside, Texas, he told me it is not that great. Now I live on the coast of Kenya, on the Indian Ocean. And I see why my free beach couldn’t compare with this one. We love to visit other parts of Kenya, especially the Great Rift Valley, but home is barely above sea level.
Solange, in this week’s chapters of The Many Wonders of Costa Contente, saw the ocean for the first time. I loved it. I thought of that day on the beach with our niece-in-law and her brother. I related to Solange’s feeling that she was where she belonged. I also belong near the shore. Have you ever been in a place where you inexplicably felt belonging?
Kate McVaugh, the author of Costa Contente, noticed us buying her books and reached out when she realized it was a book club. I asked her to introduce herself. Here she is:
I was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay area. Ever since I was quite young, I dreamed of being a teacher and working in the far-flung corners of the world. When I was in fifth grade, and the Peace Corps was established, I told my friend: When I grow up, I’m going to join the Peace Corps and go to Africa as a teacher. Amazingly, I actually did just that – except I landed in Brazil where I worked in Special Ed. (I lived in the state of Bahia – Salvador and Ilheus/Itabuna).
But even before I decided to pursue a life in education, there were the stories that constantly ran through my head. I never considered writing them down, or telling them to others. It took a long time to put those tales down on paper, and even longer before I would share them with anyone. I started with short stories and then on to novels.
Back when I wrote my first book, independent publishing did not exist, and I got nowhere sending out manuscripts to agents and publishers. But I kept on writing. (And kept on teaching.) When it became possible to publish my work on my own, I jumped right in.
My stories are set in the countries where I have lived and worked. Israel, where I lived for three years gave me the background for two, quite funny, mysteries. While teaching in Malaysia, I took a trip to Bali, where another novel is set. I spent a year in Egypt, the setting of my one-and-only paranormal romance. (I won’t recommend that to anyone. Let’s just say I was trying out a new genre.) Another book starts in California and goes down to Mexico. I never taught in Mexico, but have been there many times. My latest book is set in Naples, Italy, with brief flashbacks to my hometown of Berkeley, California. And of course there is my Peace Corps service in Brazil, which heavily influenced The Many Wonders of Costa Contente.
Vietnam, which was my last overseas job, has yet to find a place in a book. However, I did write a few years’ worth of travel essays about what I experienced and discovered.
I feel incredibly honored that a group of women working in all those far-flung countries I still dream about has chosen to read my book. It is my hope that you will find it enjoyable and maybe even discover some similarities to people and places you know.
Thanks, Kate! It’s always so interesting to make connections between the author and the story.
Come on in to the comments! What did you think of these chapters? How do you like the residents of Costa Contente? What do you think Antonio is up to?
Here’s the reading schedule for the rest of the book:
April 13: Ch 8-11
April 20: Ch 12-15
April 27: Ch 16-18