Where We Once Belonged is the tale of a Samoan girl coming of age in her small town. It is a story of family, of community mores, of gender politics, of island life. The book weaves Samoan language into the English narrative. In the back of the book there is a dictionary that translates some of the words, but by no means all. As a non-Samoan speaker, I found this both helpful--I loved to hear the music of the language and the ways that English morphed into new Samoan vocabulary in the mouths of islanders--and annoying--there were interactions, songs and poems that I couldn't translate, and these left me feeling I was missing out. The book is laid out in a series of long and short vignettes. At times island legends are woven into the narrative. There is not much plot to follow, and yet there is certainly development in the main character's understanding of herself and her setting. My three star rating may be a little harsh. This novel's rating probably suffers some, coming on the heels of some truly exceptional books I've just read. Literature from this region is hard to come by, and this book gives a nice view of Samoan life in the late 20th century. It has much more literary substance than most pop fiction, but doesn't rise to the level of a literary masterpiece.