Frangipani is a charming Tahitian mother-daughter tale. The story begins with Materena Mahi as a young mother. She raises two boys and daughter Leilani, with minimal help from her husband, and still manages to work as a “professional cleaner” for one of the island’s wealthiest residents.
Materena is a strong-willed woman. As the story progresses, it’s clear Leilani is growing into an independent girl as well. The pair clash like mothers and daughters do on a daily basis throughout the globe. Leilani questions everything, including her mother’s view on life and island ways. Materena has plans for her daughter, but young love gets in the way. The tale is peppered with relatives and friends who all want to butt in and give their input on the situation.
Célestine Vaile’s characters are reminiscent of Mma Ramotswe and cast in The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. Family ties run deep. Gossip is the preferred form of communication. Cleverness is admired. Women are the glue that holds it all together.
The Tahitian setting allows for a wonderful island escape. Vaile mixes the lovely backdrop with island tradition. Family problems are nothing new, but Materena’s tale of relative woe and reciprocal wisdom is delightfully entertaining.