Pina

Titaua Peu, trans. from the French by Jeffrey Zuckerman. Restless, $18 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-63206-155-3

Peu’s English-language debut harnesses a chorus of voices from her native Tahiti, a paradise only in the minds of non-natives. Pina is the second to last of nine children born in the downtrodden community of Tenaho. Ridiculed at school for being poor, Pina is neglected and abused by her indifferent, angry mother and alcoholic father, Auguste, and tries to protect her baby sister and teenage brother Pauro, who has fallen in love with a Frenchman. The precarious family balance is shattered as Auguste becomes unhinged after recovering from a car accident in which a woman is killed. Told at first from Pina’s perspective, the narrative gathers a violent and blood-soaked momentum as it focuses alternately on Pina’s parents and siblings in successive chapters. The family, descendants of island warriors who opposed European expansion, serves as a vehicle for a fierce message about the destructive nature of colonial oppression and the potential for change. While the many points of view somewhat diminish the suspense concerning Pina’s fate, Peu does a lovely job making their voices resonate. This evocative and layered story is a treat. (July)
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