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Reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford for Readers' Favorite
At the age of thirteen, Terry and her brother Derry left their schoolfriends behind as their father accepted a position working in Venezuela. It was 1953 and the community of Puerto Ordaz where they would live was almost completely undeveloped. It was a drastic change from the life they knew in Walbridge, Ohio: no television, no fast-food outlets, even the foods they used to love were unavailable. And, all the locals spoke Spanish and there was no high school for Terry who was about to start her freshman year. A major cultural shock, to say the least. But the family grew closer and the community grew and thrived. Terry and Derry were sent back to the States during the school year to continue with their education, returning to Venezuela every summer to be with their parents. When Terry finished her schooling, she was hired on as a teacher in Venezuela, met someone special, and started a life with him that would bring joy and heartache as the family grew and the Venezuela they both loved also grew and changed.
Estelle McDoniel’s biography, One Girl … Two Countries, is a distinct look at the changing times in two countries: the United States and Venezuela. The author presents a compelling, detailed look at the life of Terry Curran Croquer and her experiences and views of a life split between these two countries. One of the most poignant comments in this book is Terry’s belief in the equality of all people. Growing up in two countries, mixing with people of all races, Terry learned to accept people for their differences. Sadly, that is not something she witnessed when she finally left Venezuela and settled in Florida to finish raising her daughters alone. “Perhaps those who judge and criticize have forgotten that each of us is a significant part of the human race and it is our responsibility to respect and care for one another.” The author uses distinct descriptive passages to provide the reader with a sense of place and acknowledge the beauty of the country of Venezuela that Terry came to love. There is also considerable discussion on the bond between the two countries, at least in the 1950s and 1960s, and the ache in seeing so much angst in the country so many people who lived there in this era came to love. There are lots of photographs to heighten the sense of place. A powerful biography, beautifully told.