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Frangipani [Large Print] [Paperback]

Celestine Hitiura Vaite
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Paperback, Large Print, March 2006 --  
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Book Description

March 2006 Wheeler Softcover
'Check the woman who raised the man you want as your husband. Men like to say to their sons, "How's the mama? A big pork chop? That's your girlfriend in twenty years". Well girl, check your boyfriend's mama, see how she raised her son.' Materena does the best she can to take care of her family but sometimes staying true to what you believe is difficult - and bringing up a daughter in a world where everything is changing, very hard indeed. Materena's loving efforts at guiding her daughter Leilani through her childhood and into adulthood means she struggles herself with her own life, her family and who she wants to be. Funny, touching and heart-warming, Materena's love for Leilani, her two sons and her husband Pito forms the backdrop to her own story too. Materena's rules for life include: never cut costs with your curtains; how to get rid of unwanted guests; secrets for the grave; checking out the woman who raised your man (see above); treating the relatives right: 'even if your heart is being crucified you still have to wave to relatives'; and, most importantly, 'Don't start thinking you know more than I do'. "Frangipani" is the warm, tender, funny story of Materena's life in Tahiti and her relationship with her daughter, Leilani. But more importantly, it's a wonderfully life-affirming, utterly page-turning story about the power of family love and its abiding truth.
--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Product Details

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

In this whimsical, charming novel (her first to be published in the U.S.), Vaite introduces readers to proud "professional cleaner" Materena Mahi, one of the spunkiest, wisest, lovingest women on the island of Tahiti. With her combustible husband missing after a minor domestic squabble, Materena learns she's pregnant with a daughter. What will she do? Move on—until Pito moves back, of course. "Girls hurt their mother from the day they come into this world.... Girls are a curse," say some island women, but Matarena is delighted with her baby, Leilani, who soon grows into a free-spirited, curious, and sometimes troublesome girl. Materena instructs Leilani in all the folk knowledge of Tahiti—e.g., "To get rid of unwanted guests without hurting their feelings, broom around their feet"—but she can't answer all Leilani's impossible questions ("Who started the French Revolution? What's the medical term for the neck?"). Materena decides to send her to a good Catholic school, but if Leilani makes her a grandmother before she's 40, she's going to scratch out her eyes. Of course Leilani falls in love too young, which is just one of the family troubles Materena weathers with patience—and passion. This story of love, gossip and growing up (even at 40) has all the irresistible freshness of a warm breeze. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From Booklist

Featuring inimitable "professional house cleaner" Materena Mahi and her family, this is Vaite's first novel to be published in the U.S.; it will be followed by two other novels about the Mahi family. In lilting language rife with many a charming Tahitian saying, Vaite presents an archetypal story of mother--daughter conflict. Materena has always forged the middle path between ancient Tahitian rituals and modern-day know-how. In fact, when she gave the "Welcome to Womanhood" speech to her daughter, Leilani, she recited the old rules verbatim (" Don't wash your hair during your period, otherwise your blood will turn to ice"), but they were accompanied by gales of laughter. All of Materena's friends and some of her relatives avidly seek her opinions because of her commonsense wisdom and life--affirming nature. But when Leilani takes up with the motorcycle-riding Hotu, who has left many broken hearts in his wake, it is Materena who needs emotional support. Conveying a deep respect for women's strength and peppered with catchy aphorisms, this funny and moving mother-daughter story should have wide appeal. Joanne Wilkinson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful March 29 2006
By A Customer
I love this book. It is very difficult to find books about Tahiti, and the life of Tahitians from a Tahitian perspective. Most literature about Tahiti is to attract tourists, or about Gaugain, or sailors that have sailed there. This is written from a Tahitian perspective. It is written with humour and wisdom.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.9 out of 5 stars  24 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A jewel of a book! Feb. 8 2006
By Armchair Interviews - Published on Amazon.com
First published in Australia where the author lives with her Australian husband and four children, this enchanting novel is now available in the U.S.

Set in Tahiti, Frangipani is the story of Matarena Mahi and her family, especially her daughter Leilani. We meet Matarena early in her marriage, when she has one child, Tamatoa; and in the course of making up after an argument with her husband, Pito over his paycheck, she becomes pregnant with Leilani. Pito and Matarena reconcile, but Matarena decides to find a job, and becomes a "professional cleaner" to have control over her own money.

This book is reminiscent of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, in that the atmosphere of the place, the voices of the people, the stories of the aunties, all come through crystal clear.

Matarena has high hopes for her daughter Leilani who is so full of questions, and even after Matarena buys an encyclopedia, Leilani still has a thirst for knowledge. Sacrifices are made so she can attend an expensive catholic high school, but before she graduates, she meets a man, one who miraculously fulfills all the major points on Leilani's list of the perfect man.

The relationship between mother and daughter does not always run smoothly; often it bumps along like one of the Tahitian trucks on a mountain road. Matarena's 40th birthday becomes a turning point; she decides to make some major changes in her life. Her example makes Leilani choose a difficult path as well.

is a true joy to read, a jewel of a book, with characters you could just hug; you'll end up loving them so much.

Armchair Interviews says: If you want a delightful read, pick up Frangipani and enjoy!
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Delightful and Charming! March 18 2006
By Ratmammy - Published on Amazon.com
FRANGIPANI by Celestine Vaite

March 18, 2006

Amazon Rating: 4/5 stars

I can't say enough about FRANGIPANI, the debut novel by Celestine Vaite. It's funny, charming, delightful, and is told by narrator Materena Mahi, a Tahitian woman who loves to dispense advice to all her friends, neighbors, and strangers. The heart of the book is her relationship with her daughter Leilani, who proves to be almost too much for Materena. While she is very proud of her smart daughter, she also cannot understand this new breed of Tahitian woman.

It's the story of Materena's journey from being a Professional Cleaner to a Tahitian celebrity, but the heart and soul of the book is the relationship between mothers and daughters and about strong women everywhere. I cannot wait for the next two books in the series to be published in the United States. FRANGIPANI is highly recommended.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Life in the South Pacific May 13 2006
By Sharon C. Milford - Published on Amazon.com
Celestine captures the essence of living life in the old South Pacific. A time when life moved more slowly and values were set according to the matriarcal way of life. Her portrayal of mother and daughter is timeless, but the humor that she injects is more than the words that are printed, they are the life. To truly enjoy this book, you must have grown up somewhere in the South Pacific. For me I still smell the plumeria(frangipani).
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Quaint Tahitian Tale March 30 2006
By Joanne D. Kiggins - Published on Amazon.com
Frangipani, set in Tahiti, is billed as a novel that portrays a mother-daughter relationship, but it's more than that, much more.

Vaite doesn't waste words with showing us Tahitian landscape, details of the town Faa'a, or descriptions of characters. Once you get drawn into Vaite's humorous style of writing, you'll find yourself conjuring your own images to go with the many characters (relatives) in the book. The characters speak breathlessly, literally, and the narrative voice is filled with morsels of Tahitian life.

For almost the length of the pregnancy, Vaite has Materena speaking to the newly conceived daughter in her womb.

It isn't until chapter six, we're introduced to Leilani through the "rules about giving birth."

Baby Leilani jumps from the labor room at the hospital to age 12 where she is reading encyclopedias and we find out in this 12-year jump, Materena has had another child, a boy, Moana, Leilani's younger brother.

Vaite deluges the reader with humorous blends of all of these into a quaint tale, which gently pokes fun at Tahitian life, the breathless chatter between women, and the crankiness of the people. Yes, the mother-daughter ups and downs, and even some of the family life, can lead the reader to chuckle. But the number of stories within the story could have been individual novels.

This reviewer is tempted to visit Tahiti simply to see if Tahitians are cranky and really do speak without taking a breath as Vaite jokes. If you can overlook the repetitive wording and the crankiness of the people of Tahiti, Frangipani can be a delightful read. Though not a bad read, if Vaite concentrated on Leilani throughout the novel, rather than blend her into the underlying stories, Frangipani would be considered a mother-daughter tale, at least for this reader.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Charming Tale of a Mother's Wisdom Aug. 25 2007
By L. Young - Published on Amazon.com
Frangipani centers around the character of Materena and her daughter Leilani. Around them circles an array of eccentric extended family members. The novel is filled with an exotic locale, exotic customs and eccentric and lovable characters but at its heart it is about a mother-daughter relationship and the pain and joy it engenders. Materena a 'professional' cleaner and her strong willed and brilliant daughter may be poor Tahitians struggling to get along, but they are universal. You will laugh, you will cry as Matererna dispenses her woman's wisdom to all.
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