Book Review: Our Heritage, the Ocean
‘Our Heritage, The Ocean’ is a compilation of the top stories from the 2015 Samoa Observer Tusitala Short Story Competition.
What’s life like in the beautiful Pacific? Is living in paradise happier, more joyful, less stressful? Are smiles broader and tears less burning there? Sometimes, yes. Other times, no. Just like anywhere else in the world.
The loveliness of the islands doesn’t shield people from the trials and tribulations of everyday life.
There are troubles, doubts, decisions one needs to make; and a constant conflict between the values of the ancestors and the modern world.
Because when the past collides with the present, everything’s a little bit harder to do.
This book is an undeniable proof that there are so many talented writers among the Pacific Islanders. And thanks to the Samoa Observer Tusitala Short Story Competition, some of them finally get a chance to shine.
To say that this collection is good would be an understatement. It is truly exquisite. Actually, when you start reading it, you just can’t put it down.
The stories presented in the compilation are as varied as the islands of the Pacific they focus on. Some of them are serious in nature, others more light-hearted.
Some might make you furiously mad or saddened, while others will surely bring a smile to your face. But they all have one thing in common – they touch on the issues important for the Pacific peoples.
The most distressing tale is narrated by an unborn child who – while still in the mother’s womb – endures physical abuse. This spectacular and uncommon way of showing the problem of domestic violence has never been seen before.
It’s a literary masterpiece I dare to say only someone from the Pacific region (in this case, it was Sina Retzlaff) could create.
Another story that brings up a similar topic concentrates on a Samoan wife – dutiful and ready to stand by her man no matter what. Good reputation is all that counts. The rest stays behind closed door.
Domestic violence is not the only problem the Islanders need to face. Reconciling traditional ways of being with modern lifestyles proves to be an enormous challenge as well, for young and old alike.
And then there’s this long-lasting antipathy towards those who belong to a different race, who are not of full blood. As it turns out, migrants in the Blue Continent struggle to feel accepted no less than the Islanders living in foreign countries.
Yes, this is the Pacific shown in its truest colours.
The stories vary greatly in themes explored but not in quality, which is a very rare thing. Usually, when a compilation includes works by various authors, the level of one’s reading enjoyment fluctuates wildly depending on how good a particular tale is.
But this book is different, as not even one story is less interesting than the others.
They are all exceptionally well written in a style that stirs the imagination and engages all the senses. Vivid descriptions – so important in some of these narratives – help convey the message, making the truths hidden between the lines perfectly visible.
Because this compilation is not only entertaining, but most of all thought provoking. It encourages critical reflection and deep thinking – something only the best pieces of literature are able to do.
‘Our Heritage, The Ocean’ is a book I wholeheartedly recommend. Seventeen stories – all equally good, seventeen authors – all worthy of attention. Robert Louis Stevenson surely would be proud.
‘Our Heritage, The Ocean’ is available from the Samoa Observer at Vaitele and Apia; at Samoa Stationery and Books, the Robert Louis Stevenson Museum gift shop and at Business Systems Limited. It can also be purchased online through www.shopsamoa.com.