Wanda Suttle Duncan is a seventh-generation Florida Cracker, descended from dragon-slayers and swamp dwellers. She ended the Cracker legacy of her family when she moved away from Florida as a young woman. When she returns to care for her aging mother, she rediscovers the beauty of a quiet, riverfront town with brick streets, ancient live oaks and decaying Victorian homes. Her small gritty Southern hometown is seemingly frozen in time, where pristine collides with provincialism, poverty, and an abundance of inexplicable, off-normal phenomena. In the midst of caring for her mother, Wanda’s husband commits suicide. That’s when the town becomes her refuge, and a hidden, healing magic emerges from the sand and moss and sulfur water.
A frequent visitor during the town’s zenith as a resort in the 1800s, P.T. Barnum once described Green Cove Springs as “salubrious and almost enchanted.” Duncan parts ways with Mr. Barnum, contending her hometown is certainly enchanted, with no “almost” about it. In Cracker Gothic: A Florida Woman’s Memoir, she reveals some of the treasures of her hometown, stories of snake skins and gravestones, Spanish moss and sacred sulfur water, horses on sidewalks and dead goats on ice. Wanda’s essays of her Cracker heritage and of rural Florida in the 21st century provide a glimpse of an old and authentic Florida bypassed by most tourists. Her stories of caring for an aging parent while dealing with personal grief speak to how place can heal a heart.