This semester I am taking a young adult literature class, which means my shelves are currently filled with YA books. Nation was the first book on the reading list. So read it, I did!
We meet Mau, who is setting off from Boy’s Island in the canoe he recently made. He is on his way home where everyone in the Nation will be there to greet him and celebrate his transition into Manhood. But on his journey, he is swept into the largest wave he’s ever seen and is thrown off course. When he finally arrives to his island home, all he is greeted by are smashed huts and lifeless bodies. His entire Nation has been destroyed by the giant wave.
After he tends to all the dead villagers in a comatose haze, by taking them out to sea where their spirits will turn into dolphins until they are called back to human form, he explores the rest of his Nation to find a huge ship, much bigger than any canoe he’s ever seen.
On the ship is Ermintrude, daughter to a prominent man who was made governor of colony halfway around the world. On her way out to meet her father, Ermintrude’s ship is caught by the wave and thrown onto the Nation. All of the crew perished, but Ermintrude, hiding in her cabin, survived the crash.
And here on the Nation, Ermintrude and Mau find each other. Through pantomime and drawing the sand, they learn to communicate. Soon, others from neighboring islands show up, hoping that the Nation fared better than their own, only to find a “ghost girl” and a boy/man as the chief. But together, Mau, Daphne (Ermintrude’s new name for herself), and the others rebuild the Nation.
A combination of humorous interaction, spiritual reflection, and deep shared sadness, Nation is one of my new favorite books. A good start to the semester, I’d say.