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Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions


1. Breadfruit is, fundamentally, a story about love - above all, the love between Materena and Pito. How did you feel about Pito and Materena's relationship? How did their respective views of love differ? What do you think it was that made Materena want to get married after sixteen years of never thinking about it? Why was Pito so opposed to the idea at first?

2. When Materena begins covertly gathering information for her wedding, did you share in her excitement, or worry she was going to get hurt? Why do you think the author detailed Materena's secret wedding research? Did Materena learn anything (other than prices) when she inquired into Cousin Moeata's cakes, Mama Teta's car, and the seemingly excellent deal on the new bed?

3. In Breadfruit, Vaite set out to re-create the Tahiti she knew from her childhood - complete with an almost comically large extended family. What role did Materena's family, both immediate and extended, play in her everyday life? How would you characterize the women in her family? How would you characterize the men? Are their roles similar to or different from the gender roles in your family?

4. What did you make of the story of Loana and Materena's father? Why do you think Loana put "father unknown" on 33259 Vaite a-d,i-vi,1-358 7/6/06 3:37 PM Page 347 the birth certificate, and why did she take so long to tell her daughter the truth? Did the story give you insight into Materena's relationship with her mother? Did it shine any light on Materena's relationship with Pito?

5. Materena lives in a small Tahitian town, with little access to the outside world and to the conveniences and luxuries we enjoy in many parts of America. And yet the characters in Breadfruit are acutely aware of the way the world is changing. In what instances do you see Materena and her family attempting to balance Tahitian tradition with modern beliefs? Would you identify any of the novel's characters as "traditional" or "modern"?

6. Vaite's characters face numerous difficulties in their lives, and yet no one in the novel is unhappy. Does this surprise you? Why do you think the author writes of hardship in such a jovial manner? With only a few overt political references, do you consider Breadfruit a political novel? Why or why not?

7. On one hand, Materena and her family are Roman Catholic. On the other hand, they find comfort in Tahitian beliefs that predate the arrival of Catholicism on the island. How do these two ways of thinking differ, and how are they similar? What role does spirituality play in the characters' lives?

8. Why do you think Célestine Vaite chose the title Breadfruit for this novel? Can you think of a particular passage or episode in the story that relates to the title? What does the title mean to you?

by Célestine Vaite

  • Publication Date: September 4, 2006
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books
  • ISBN-10: 0316016586
  • ISBN-13: 9780316016582