White Savages in the South Seas is a book about Polynesia after the cruise ships have sailed, the jet has flown off into the sunset and the maitai curtain has droppeed on a dream that was more performance than reality.
Writing with zest, humor and great affection, Mel Kernahan introduces the reader to the islands of Polynesia and an array of extraordinary inhabitants: Susy No Pants who lives an uproarious life of pleasure but never strays far from who she is or where she came from; a nuclear nomad from Tuamotus who attempts suicide by ancient means in California’s Balboa Fun Zone, home of the chocolate-dipped frozen banana; an elderly Tahitian freedom fighter, revered by his people, who is smuggled off the island to a French prison in an attempt to silence him; French officials who concoct an elaborate charade to create an uplifting image of the Foreign Legion in Papeete. The author encounters, on remote islands where tourists seldom tread, missionaries, visionaries, drunk bureaucrats, randy kings and Ghost Woman.
Kernahan does not find paradise, although she admits to looking for it. Instead she presents, in travel writing who exuberance pushes the limits of the genre, a reality riddled with potholes, shifting truths and a distinct lack of answers.