Restless. Aug. 2022. 320p. tr. from French by Jeffrey Zuckerman. ISBN 9781632061553. pap. $18. F
The first Polynesian author to be awarded the Eugène Dabit Prize, Peu makes her English-language debut with this lacerating story of Pina, born into an impoverished family of nine children and symbolically shouldering the burden of her ancestors as well as the current state of her country, Tahiti. The nine-year-old runs a gauntlet of abuse perpetrated by her mother, Ma; her father, Auguste; and her classmates. Opening with Pina’s narration of her everyday struggles, the novel shifts to the stories of various family members, including her sister Hannah, who lives in France; her brother Pauro, who is in love with a French man; and her father, an alcoholic, who falls into a coma after a drunk driving crash in which he kills a woman. When he recovers, he goes on a murderous rampage in the name of religion. Tahiti, which plays a prominent role in the novel, is presented as a nation oppressed by French colonization and a “playground for idiots looking for something exotic.”
VERDICT Relentless and powerful in its depiction of violence and brutality within Pina’s family and the Tahitian community at large.
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