Frangipani Paperback – Large Print, Mar 2006
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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 out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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 out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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!
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.
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.