Tiare in Bloom Review
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In her last book, Frangipani, Célestine Vaite wrote a touching story about the bond between a mother, Materena Mahi, and her daughter, Leilani. In her new novel, Tiare in Bloom, she shifts the focus to Materena’s husband, Pito, to tell a story about a man and his family—his wife, his children, and his grandchildren.

Now that her children are out of the house, Materena has time to focus on the things that matter to her—like her career as a popular radio talk show host. After work one night, she begins thinking about her father—a man she’s never met. Materena thinks she’s finally ready to find her father—but when she mentions her idea to Pito, his response creates a painful rift in their relationship. It nearly ends their marriage—until a little girl brings them back together.

The little girl is Tiare. She’s just an infant when her great-aunt delivers her to Materena, claiming that she’s the daughter of Materena’s oldest son, Tamatoa. Tiare’s mother couldn’t handle the responsibility of raising a child—and her great-auntie is already raising enough children—so Tiare is left in the hands of her stunned grandparents. Since Tamatoa’s away, serving in the military, Materena and Pito agree to adopt their granddaughter. With Materena working each night, Pito is responsible for caring for his beloved granddaughter—and as he spends time with her, he begins to realize what he missed on all those nights he spent drinking with his friends instead of caring for his own children.

Célestine Vaite definitely has a knack for storytelling. The award-winning author once again brings the people and the culture of Tahiti to life in her latest novel, through vivid descriptions and strong characterization. Thanks to Vaite’s distinctive, laid-back style, you can’t help but feel like you’re a part of the story—that you’re sitting around the living room or stopping to gossip in front of the Chinese store with the chattering aunties. It’s warm and inviting—welcoming you into the lives of the characters and their extended family.

Vaite’s writing is unique—and it may take some getting used to. But she tells the story as her characters would—using words the way they would, in their mix of languages. For the most part, even when she uses French or Tahitian words, you’ll be able to get the gist of them, in context—though you may have to make a few guesses from time to time. Still, that’s part of the charm of Vaite’s novel—and it’s what makes them stand out.

As Vaite writes about a character who’s just meeting the family for the first time, “give [him] a few more days, and he’ll be throwing his arms around Mama Teta like a long-lost friend because by then he will know her well.” And the same is true for readers. Once you get to know the characters—and once you get used to the style—you’ll feel right at home with Tiare in Bloom.

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