‘The Sons of Cannibals and more tales from Vanuatu’ is Bryan Webb’s second publication regarding his missionary work in the Melanesian archipelago. Although a separate book, it is a continuation of his previous memoir, ‘Hungry Devils’.
Having spent over fifteen years living in Vanuatu, Bryan is practically a local. Familiar with the area and armed with a wealth of knowledge, he is no longer bewildered by the unusual customs or seemingly odd behaviours of the islands’ native inhabitants. Together with his family, he heartily carries on with his mission to preach the gospel.
However, his work is not always easy. Certain cultural idiosyncrasies still prove to be an obstacle Bryan needs to surmount. Well, how do you share your faith with the followers of the Jon Frum Cargo Cult who await the coming of their prophet and his divine gifts in the form of TVs, cars, and refrigerators? You can only try. And this is exactly what Bryan does. He tries; every single day. And he surely gets his rewards. Because when the sons of cannibals labour together to build a church, he can’t help but smile.
This book is no different from its informal predecessor, ‘Hungry Devils’. It is just a second volume that delivers another batch of short stories. And this is why it’s worthy of your attention. Webb’s tales are, again, phenomenal. Strikingly engaging, they will take you on an incredible adventure, revealing the secrets of Vanuatu that only the locals know.
Despite obvious similarities between the two memoirs, this one is a little more focused on the country’s enchanting culture. Ni-Vanuatu way of life serves as an underlying theme that runs through the entire book. In a few of the chapters, however, it is especially prominent. The author delightfully describes and explains how the natives give directions (left, right, right, left, left is right, right is left, up, down, toward the ocean, away from the ocean, generally: till you get to the tree), what ‘storian’ is, and how long one needs to wait to have something – anything – done. He also compares Melanesian traditions with their Western counterparts, analyzing the patterns of behaviour in both societies. These detailed, in-depth delineations not only give you a better understanding of the aforementioned culture but also make you aware of how diverse our world is.
Of course, Webb doesn’t write exclusively about the archipelago’s folkways. The narratives wander from his missionary work to the indigenous communities he meets, from the country’s geography to its rich history. Once more you are provided with a thorough and very enlightening tour of the islands, where the past coexists with the present in almost perfect harmony. You can’t blame Bryan for falling in love with the land of smiles, can you?
The Webbs’ experiences are recounted in a graceful, light-hearted manner with the necessary pinch of gentle humour. The author’s fearless self-reflection and ability to laugh at his own failings make this book brim with emotion and honesty. Sharing your successes is easy. Sharing your failures and mistakes, not so much. But Bryan Webb doesn’t seem to care. He is truthful and thus very inspiring.
Every single story in this compilation is a winning read. The writing is excellent, the content insightful, the Melanesian country unusually vivid. You couldn’t ask for more. Simply perfect.