Members of a Tahitian family cannot escape one another in Titaua Peu’s novel Pina.
Nine-year-old Pina’s life, already darkened by abuse and poverty, becomes even harsher when an accident turns her drunken father Auguste into a dangerous religious zealot. Pina, her mother, and her siblings seek refuge wherever they can: with loved ones, with lovers, and with drugs. But as Auguste’s behavior grows more unhinged, it becomes clear that only a drastic, tragic action can break the cycle of violence.
Despite her youth, Pina is already a jaded and angry soul. Still, she dreams, even knowing that dreaming could be pointless. Her only ally is her brother, Pauro, whose romance with an older Frenchman makes him one of many convenient targets for Auguste’s rage. Pina’s abusive and abused mother, Ma, is too busy chasing her own slim chance at happiness to notice what is happening with her children.
Colonialism and its trappings—including colorism, lacks of opportunity, and oppression—play roles in creating and exacerbating the addiction, violence, and mental illness that plagues the family. Even travel and education are not antidotes: Pina’s sister, Hannah, escaped to an unfulfilling life in Paris.
The continuing legacy of French conquest also affects the world around Pina’s family. As they face a personal reckoning, protests rock Tahiti in the wake of a historic vote. Though few members of the family take an interest in politics, they nonetheless find their destinies altered by events beyond their control. In the end, they realize that there is no fixing the past: only by moving forward and leaving the sources of their pain behind can they hope for any measure of peace.
Pina is a dark family saga about the effects of colonialism on one family and the nation they live in.
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