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April 23, 2021

When in Vanuatu by Nicki Chen ~ a Review

by MK French

Satisfying

Diana had followed her husband Jay to Manila, hoping to start a family together. Four years later, after a violent coup d'etat, Diana convinces Jay to get a transfer to the peaceful island of Vanuatu so they can have the family she dreamed of. Vanuatu is beautiful, but there are still dangers and disappointments.

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When in Vanuatu
April 2021; She Writes Press; 978-1647420345
ebook, print (336 pages); women's fiction
Diana is overwhelmed at the beginning of the book, intent on getting pregnant, then feeling abandoned when her husband and a coworker arrange for transfers without consulting anyone else so that she'd lose her best friend. Some of the tension is the ghost of Jay's first wife hanging between them, as well as Diana's driven nature that wouldn't allow her to actually relax. With the book taking place in 1989, it's just assumed that women would follow their husbands wherever they chose to go, and that included Diana. She was deemed helpless, just as other wives were, and it probably doesn't help that she has little to occupy herself other than trying to get pregnant.

With this backdrop, When in Vanuatu is more of a character study for Diana and the relationships around her, past and present. The move to Vanuatu doesn't even happen until after the halfway mark, but it's a choice that Diana made and campaigned for. She starts coming into herself then, though her insistence on having a baby continued. This probably spoils an aspect of the ending, but this could be a very emotionally-laden topic for readers. Diana does get pregnant but eventually miscarries. She and Jay grieve together, but this doesn't devastate her or drive her so far into her grief that she can't get out of it. Life is outside of her control, and this is a lesson that finally takes by the end of the novel. I felt terrible for her and Jay, for the losses and defeats they had along the way, and satisfied by the conclusion. While they can't control life, they can support each other through everything.

Buy When in Vanuatu at Amazon

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and a golden retriever.

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