Suzanne Gordon’s island dream home is no mega-mansion by most standards. It’s a 900-square-foot concrete-block cottage with two rooms, not counting a kitchen that Suzanne added on herself. The former chef’s quarters of a hotel that closed when Hurricane Hugo roared through Nevis in 1989, it is of a decidedly smaller scale than the grand colonial-era plantations for which Nevis is known. But what you can do from this location more than compensates for its size.
“I can roll a rock down the hill and it will splash in the sea,” says Suzanne, chopping vegetables for dinner in her homemade kitchen. Outside is Tamarind Bay, near Oualie Beach and along the northwest coast of Nevis. The island is a seven-mile-long sliver of green that forms a dual-island nation with nearby St. Kitts. Suzanne puts down the knife and points to the progress she’s made on a new front porch. It’s another add-on to the dream. In it she sees herself kicking back with her dog, Rams, named after the local supermarket, Rams Ltd., where she rescued the mutt in the parking lot. “The views of Nevis Peak and St. Kitts from there are so gorgeous I almost feel guilty.”
Suzanne has literally manufactured her fantasy. She arrived on Nevis 14 years ago, alone, with a thousand dollars to her name. Her only child, a daughter, had recently married. The big five-oh loomed over her. She had no long-term job prospects.
“I loved my job [with the Philadelphia Inquirer], so it wasn’t as if I were running away from anything – except the weather,” Suzanne says. “But I had reached the point where I needed a significant change in the way I led my life.”
She landed a publishing deal to write a book about Caribbean architecture – Searching for Sugar Mills: An Architectural Guide to the Caribbean (Macmillan). But the book money didn’t last long. So Suzanne scraped out a month-to-month living, like a college grad tasting the freedom and challenges of the real world. She found freelance writing gigs. Waited tables. Poured drinks at a bar. Housesat for foreign homeowners. Anything to help put a roof over her head, and to keep her on Nevis.