Reviewed by Kathy Perschmann, Carver County (MN) Librarian
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!