When Troost’s wife accepts a job offer in Vanuatu, they jump at the chance to revisit the South Pacific. Their previous adventure to the Republic of Kiribati resulted in his first book, The Sex Lives of Cannibals. This next venture led to another set of Oceania misadventures and ironic twists of fate.
Although it sounds idealistic, actually living in Vanuatu on the rugged island of Efate, while it has its pleasures, can be plagued with typhoons, frequent earthquakes, and giant centipedes. Troost brings hilarity into his account with an impressive command of narrative and place. The title of the book refers to the use of kava, a potent drink used for medicinal, religious, political, cultural and social purposes throughout the South Pacific. While not available for recreational use in many countries, including the United States, in Vanuatu it is apparently abundant. Its use and misuse brings lively accounts of the bitter muddy-looking drink.
When Troost’s wife becomes pregnant, they move to Fiji for its more comprehensive medical facilities. While in Fiji the author delves into the incongruities of tribal politics. He has a deep curiosity of cannibalism and learns surprising facts, primarily that it isn’t restricted to being only an ancient custom. Cannibalism has occurred within native people’s memories.
I greatly enjoyed this travel book. Although we sailed through the South Pacific, Vanuatu and Fiji weren’t on our itinerary. In any event, it takes living and working in a place to really know it and its people. Troost’s account, with his sly self-depreciating humor, makes for a lively, fun read.