When in Vanuatu

She Writes. Apr. 2021. 336p. ISBN 9781647420345. pap. $16.95. F
When Diana’s husband Jay lands his dream job working for an international aid organization, she’s unsure about relocating to Manila. It’s the late 1980s, and the political situation in the Philippines is uncertain. But it’s also an opportunity for Diana to take some time away from work to start a family. Four years after their move, Diana is struggling with infertility, and her doctor’s orders to relax aren’t helping. Although she’s found community with her fellow expat wives, the stress of living in a country where the possibility of violent unrest is a daily reality makes her life anything but relaxing. A friend’s transfer to the South Pacific island nation of Vanuatu suggests a potential solution: a more peaceful locale. Jay isn’t as keen on moving to Vanuatu, but it transforms Diana, helping her rebuild her confidence and rediscover her love of art. Chen (Tiger Tail Soup) draws on her experience as a white expat in the Philippines and Vanuatu, lending realism to Diana’s emotional journey.
VERDICT The abrupt ending, which focuses on tying up loose ends, doesn’t match the languid pacing of the rest of the novel, but it is a satisfying resolution. This intimate and deeply personal story will appeal to readers who enjoy emotionally potent, descriptive stories about women’s inner lives.
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