‘Lovefolds of Our Upbringing: A family’s journey in life’ is a contemporary fiction novel set in American Samoa. The book is Lynn Pulou-Alaimalo’s paperback debut and the first instalment in the Aiga series.
One cannot raise children without instiling within them a proper set of values. Helping youngsters establish their moral compass is a mission no parent can take lightly, and Iulia and Tala are keenly aware of that. With great passion and consequence they pass on the Samoan way of being to their sons and daughters, teaching them humility and respect for others in the hope that they will grow up to be considerate and caring people succeeding in their adult lives.
As a writer you know that you only get one debut, and you should use it wisely. Create a book you will be proud of, and – preferably – a book people will want to read. Easier said than done, right? But if you are a Pacific writer (yes, you may just call me biased here), the chances are your debut will be fabulous; or even totally shamazing.
Such is the case with Lynn Pulou-Alaimalo, whose debut novel immediately shows what a gifted and engrossing storyteller she is. Part one of the Aiga series is so enjoyable and pleasant to read that it literally makes you impatient for the next title.
The story of an average Samoan family will resonate mainly with the author’s target audience. Pacific Islanders will surely find it easy to relate to the characters, their actions and behaviours. Being connected by cultures based on the same (or similar) values, they will understand each sentence significantly better, have more reasons to laugh and an excuse to cry. For them, this book will be a piece of home; something familiar, intimate, and recognizable. I cannot but take notice here, that despite the rising popularity of so-called ethnic literature, Pacific peoples are still under-represented in popular fiction genres. Why can’t we see in major bookstores bestsellers with a protagonist that comes from Samoa, Tonga, Niue, or Kiribati? Why can’t a person living in Europe or the East Coast of the United States pick up a novel with a Pohnpeian hero and not wonder what the word ‘Pohnpeian’ really means? (I will deliberately ignore the ignorance of some human beings, who don’t know – and what is worse don’t care – that on our planet Earth there is a region called Oceania, as that’s not the point here). Let me tell you why: because the very few Pacific books that get published are aimed primarily at Pasifika readers. Unfortunately, ‘Lovefolds of Our Upbringing’ is no exception in this regard.
I am all for incorporating indigenous vocabulary into stories, as this adds authenticity and is simply a beautiful adornment. However, if such book is to be accessible to a wider audience, the ‘foreign’ words and expressions should be translated. Lynn Pulou-Alaimalo uses Samoan almost as often as English, which – I want to emphasize this one more time – is utterly wonderful; for people who know both languages. If you don’t speak Samoan, you will have trouble comprehending a great number of lengthy passages. This is certainly a downside of this novel; the only one, nonetheless quite annoying.
Even though this first instalment of the series is bereft of a typical plot – where you can easily identify the purpose of the narrative – it draws you in. You feel as if you’ve been watching someone’s life through a peephole. The characters are remarkably plausible, their experiences solidly anchored in reality. As you travel through the pages, the principles of Fa’a Samoa (the Samoan way) charmingly unfold before your eyes, enabling you to understand the peculiarities of this amazing culture.
Reading Lynn Pulou-Alaimalo’s books is a real pleasure. She is an excellent writer who refuses to forget about her roots. ‘Lovefolds of Our Upbringing’ is a dream opening of the Aiga series. You can’t help but wonder just how good the second instalment will be.