I had no expectations at all. None. The coolest thing however is that someone from PNG shares my name! An old Scandinavian name and a Pacific author just happens to be called Regis Tove Stella. Naturally, I could not pass on this chance to read a book by him, so that is how I ended up reading Mata Sara (Crooked Eyes).
It is immediately explained on the back cover what the book is about. It is about alienation and displacement. It is something that can happen to all of us. Indigenous people seem to suffer from it far more than they should. In this book four of them win scholarships and move to Australia. They all try to fit in and cope in their own ways among the dimdims.
I love the word dimdim. Naturally, the dimdims have weird ways, values, practices and beliefs. At least the other students from PNG understand, or maybe they do not. It is intriguing to read a book from the point of view of Pacific Islanders, and how they see the Western ways being strange. I learned a lot about the difficulties of adapting into a new culture in a way I have never seen it before. I also enjoyed reading about a culture I did not know a lot about before.
There are many stories in the book, because all the main characters have their own life that they have lived and are living. Even though it is clear where the plot is going to take the reader, the book is written in such an enjoyable way, that it does not matter. There is a lot of dialogue in the book, which might be why it works so well. The past becomes present at the end of the book.
Everyone has his or her own secrets and troubles, and their own ways of dealing with them. A reoccurring theme is the apartment they live in. There is something strange about it. Not all of the students are comfortable with a dimdim woman who has lived in PNG, and is sometimes hanging around. Racism is present, which is sadly not a surprise. Prejudice towards sexual minorities is another big issue.
It is a fast and easy read, but the subjects in the books are far from being light. I liked the way they were handled, somehow so innocently and straightforward once there were no other option than to face the truth. Naturally, a lot had happened in between, especially denial. I highly recommend this book as a refreshing read from a different point of view. The subjects are known to all of us, as is the Australian sun!