Materena is a lot of things–a professional cleaner, a proud Tahitian, a devoted customer at the local Chinese store, the relative that is nice to everyone in the family, and Pito’s wife. She’s also the mother of three children–tough guy Tamatoa, sensitive mama’s boy Moana, and strong-willed daughter Leilani. It’s Leilani who challenges her mother the most– the two could not be more unalike in education, temperament, relationships and aspirations. Still, they love each other deeply. As Leilani grows up, their relationship shifts from parent-child to more of a friendship, and they inspire each other to grow and become better women in amusing, touching little ways.
I think the best thing I can say about this book is that as soon as I finished it, I immediately went to buy the other two the author has written about the same family. I love stories of community, stories of family, stories of growth and change in relationships. Frangipani is all of those things. You really feel like you’re living in Materena’s obsessively tidy house where leaves always need sweeping and ambitious Mama Teta or cousin Georgette (who, incidentally, is trans) might stop by and ask for a favor before dinner needs cooking. There’s a familial warmth and lightness to this book which carries over to the excellent writing. It’s the kind of novel that makes you forget you’re reading–it sort of sweeps you into its world and spits you out at the end, a little rumpled and homesick, missing your favorite character’s voice (and in my case, also wondering exactly what breadfruit tastes like.)
This book was a joy and I can’t wait to visit Materena’s little house near the Chinese store again.
5 stars and a bouquet of blossoms to Frangipani.
(I loved this book, fellow readers–it was surprisingly comforting and cheerful. If you choose to purchase it through the Equal Opportunity Bookshop or any other avenue, let me know what you think of it! Also, be aware that this post and the blog in general contains affiliate links and if you click/purchase, a commission may be earned. Peace!)