By Célestine Hitiura Vaite
# of books I’ve finished this year: 12
(My original goal at the beginning of this year was to finish one book per month. I’ve since altered that goal to 2 per month since I already had that record from Jan-June. I’m going to try to talk about the ones I finish from now on).
I adored the first-person storytelling in this book, from the perspective of the mother, Materena. She tells of her struggles, fears, and joys as the mother of 3 children on the island of Tahiti. The focus if this story is the bond between the narrator and her curious, headstrong daughter, Leilani.
This girl asks her mother everything, and as she learns more she expands her questions to those her mother can’t answer.
“Who started the French Revolution?”
“Why doesn’t it snow in Tahiti?”
“What’s the medical term for the neck?”
Materena buys her daughter an encyclopedia so she can answer some of these questions herself.
Materena has more practical knowledge to give her daughter, like how to clean your house properly, how to respect people, the traditional way to do things, and to be wary of Tahitian men. She calls this motherly advice the Welcome to Womanhood talk, and gives this talk to Leilani.
Leilani comes up with her own words of wisdom, which her mother finds written on her wall.
As Leilani matures, Materena is challenged to compromise her old-fashioned way of thinking and her daughter’s eagerness for an exciting life of partying and boys. She has her own ideas now and Materena just wants to be a good mother and instill good values in her daughter.
When Leilani falls in love with a rich boy, Hotu, Materena has her doubts, but they end up getting married and she has to let her baby move on from her house to start her own life and family. They are young and deeply in love, which makes Materena happy for her daughter. In the end, Leilani decides to go away to medical school to help those in need. She leaves her love Hotu behind but knows that he loves her enough to let her pursue her dreams.
I love the theme of empowerment within this book. The ability of an intelligent girl from humble beginnings to make a life for herself by choosing her own way. I deeply admire the character of Leilani and hope I have enough strength within myself to do what I know is right and achieve my personal goals.
Strongly recommend to any who enjoy coming of age stories and family love. It also has a good measure of woman empowerment and values of respect for others. Charming.