Materena's professional life is at its best times. Her job at the local radio where she hosts a call-in show is a hit in the island and she enjoys a new found celebrity status. Pito, spends his time between his work and drinking with his friends. Pito, never manages to get the respect of his wifes family. Their family life is on wrecks and like many of the Tahitian households are on the verge of breakage, though he doesn't realise this.
Pito's, life has taken a complete change after the surprise arrival of his alleged grand daughter, dropped by the relatives of the mother, a girl who fled the house to live her life. The girl is supposed to be the daughter of their son, seeded by him in her girlfriend during a single day ( as he claim) of loving. Materena ( the grandmother) , did not know what to do when the girl was handed over and the lady left the house without giving Materena sufficient time to contemplate and decide. Their attempt to reach out the family of the girls mother, turned out to be futile, as the neighbourhood and the family were too difficult for Pito and Materena to handle.
The girl, Tiare ( named after the famous flower), helps Pito to re-live his neglected time of fatherhood, and changes the man in him, making him more responsible and 'friendly', to the surprise of his wife. During one of the new found vacation which Pito and Materena enjoys, she even tells him that she find a "friend" in him when she looks at his face. After 25 years of marriage and many times near collapse, they started finding out the better days of their married life. They even manages to bring in some responsibility and respect to their young estranged son. The author in one of her interview remarked "``Men become fathers early and they're hopeless, but they become fabulous grandfathers,''.
It was just three days before when Materena decided that enough is enough. Materena, like many other people in Tahiti, fills her fathers name in the register as "unknown". Born to a Tahitian women, fathered by one of the French Officer on Duty, Materena wants to find who her father is and wants to confront him. One of the reason to accept the girl as their own, is because of this, as Materena does not want another girl in Tahiti to fill her school register with fathers name as unknown.
This book is the 3rd in the series ( Breadfruit and Frangipani were released earlier) by this Tahitian writer. I haven't read the other two, but never felt they were the pre-requisite to read this. She has a very different style of writing, soft with lot of local expressions , french et al. Impressive work of fiction, recommended for serious readers , as it opens up the curtain ( to use the words of Kundera) to the Tahitian life.
The other major book I have read about the Tahiti is by Mario Vargas Llosa, "The way to Paradise" based on the life and times of Paul Gauguin in Tahiti. Now, that has got very little to do with Tahitian people, except his multiple girlfriends and wife, but more on the painter himself. It is also written by a Peruvian writer. This book on the other hand is written by a Tahitian author ( though she is living in Australia now) and is about the Tahitian way of life. The only tales you get to hear from these tourist destinations are those of the travellers, who understand things from their perspective.
Here is an informative page about the author and a brief interview. Interesting to know she writes her book on a kitchen table. ``The kitchen is vibrant and I usually have a stew cooking or I am baking muffins,'' she says.
Celestine Hitiura Vaite