Red Palms

Cara Haycak (Wendy Lamb Books 2004)

Region: Ecuador/ South America

Age: 12 and up

Benita Mariah, a wealthy young girl from Guayaquil Ecuador, has her world  turned on its axis, when her father tells her and the rest of the family that they’ve lost their fortune as a result of the Great Depression. The Mariah’s are forced to sell all of their things, pack up, and move to the small island of Paita. Her fathers plan is to create a coconut plantation and restore their riches, but Josef doesn’t know the first thing about farming, let alone the culture and customs of life on Paita.

Benita and her father soon begin to clash, Benita has been forced to grow up and no longer believes in her father, as a result of their escalating situation she runs away to the other side of the island with Raul, a local young man who has wooed Benita, much to her fathers chagrin. Benita’s coming of age story is about acting on what she believes is right, even if that means defying the ones she loves most.

Principle Themes:

As a coming of age story its only natural that there exists some child-parental tension. At the beginning of the book Benita and her father have a close relationship for she has blindly put her trust in him, but as Josef continues to obscure the truth, Benita is disillusioned and learns she must find her own way, even if her father disagrees. Religion is another principal theme of the book, the Mariahs are Christians, and the Indigenous people of Paita have their own religion. There is a tension throughout as Josef disparages the Indigenous people for their ways of life, and Benita  learns from and comes to respect the Indigenous people of the Island through her relationship with Raul, despite her fathers racist and disparaging comments. Lastly, Benita’s story is about finding oneself, throughout the book she puts her trust and faith in different people, but this only take her so far, before Benita finds the courage to believe in herself and do what she must to lead a fulfilling and purposeful life.

Additional Resources:

Author’s Bio


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