Sunday, July 22, 2007

Matarena's Wedding Plans

I just finished reading The Breadfruit: a novel by Celestine Vaite, a Tahitian born writer. If you like multicultural family stories, you will like this book.

The story is set in Papeete, capital city of the French Polynesian island Tahiti.

The storyline is simple. Matarena, the protagonist, wants to get married and formalize the longstanding relationship she has with Pito, the father of her three children. Pito is lazy, indifferent and an alcoholic and clearly has no interest in formalizing their relationship. His only interests in life are alcohol, practicing the ukulele, and belittling Matarena. From the very beginning of the relationship he showed no affection and never used any words of endearment to Matarena. The closest he came to showing any concern towards Matarena is when she fell out of a breadfruit tree and he thought she was badly hurt. However, one night in a drunken stupor, Pito proposes to Matarena. Even though she is aware that he was drunk, Matarena, the romantic, goes right ahead planning her wedding in secret. The city seems to be populated mainly by Matarena's cousins so Matarena goes to her cousins to get quotes for the wedding cake, the music, and the transportation to and from the church. She buys a new bed and gets carpet on her floor, all in preparation for a wedding. Although this is the basic story, the book is filled with anecdotes about Matarena's children, Matarena's mother and cousins, and Pito's mother.

Breadfruit is the first of a trilogy. The writer has followed up with books titled Frangipani and Tiare.

The breadfruit, grown in tropical countries, is a versatile and starchy fruit that can be baked, roasted, fried, or boiled. When it is baked or roasted the white flesh tastes a bit like hot bread. Periodically the breadfruit is mentioned in the book. Breadfruit is a typical food in Tahiti and perhaps Matarena's story is typical of Tahiti hence the title.

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