Not since Precious Ramotswe made her first appearance in The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency has a novel's heroine so immediately and completely won readers' hearts. Materena Mahi, "the best listener in Tahiti," is warm and generous, a natural problem solver, versed in the folk wisdom of her native island home. When a drunken Pito proposes to Materena, she initially thinks it's just the booze talking. But Materena can't help starting to plan for a fabulous wedding. Right away she's off making inquiries on behalf of "a friend of her boss." From Cousin Moeata, Materena learns that the cake is the most important part of the wedding. From Mama Teta, she's given to understand it's the ride to the church that really counts. Cousin Georgette insists that the real key to a wedding is the dancing. As Materena juggles all this helpful advice, she forges on with everyday life--her relatives, her new baby boy, church on Sunday, cleaning her boss's house...it never ends! Soon, though, Pito seems to have forgotten his proposal. Should Materena be fiu of this heartbreaker? Célestine Vaite's latest tale of big dreams on a small island will leave readers cheering.
Native Tahitian Vaite returns to the charming world of Materena Mahi, the "professional cleaner" and mother of three introduced in early 2006's Frangipani. This second installment begins when Pito Tehana, the father of Materena's children, drunkenly proposes marriage. Though he's forgotten about it by morning, Materena can't get it out of her head. In between jobs, caring for her kids and visits with her many cousins, Materena fantasizes about her wedding, even though Pito does nothing but dash Materena's hopes; in one of the book's most moving chapters, Materena scrimps to buy Pito a silk shirt for his birthday, but when he opens it, he grumpily tells her to return it and buy him a case of beer. Although the novel is driven by Materena's intense longing, it's peppered with witty encounters between Materena and her nosy family members. Among the wide cast of friends and family, there's Cousin Giselle, who gave birth in the back of a Mercedes Benz; Mama Roti, Pito's doting mother; Mama Teta, who drives a wedding car; and Rita, Materena's favorite cousin. None are particularly nuanced, but when combined with Vaite's light touch and the exotic setting, the result is redolent of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series a delightful diversion.