Hawai’i


Hilo Farmer's Market
Photo of Hilo Farmer’s Market by FeliciaElena used under a Creative Commons license.

Donigan Merritt, The Common Bond (Other Press, 2008).
As this novel starts, Morgan Cary, a haole raised in Hawai’i and for years a Kona fisherman, has returned to Hilo on the big island from California following the death of his wife, Victoria, in which he was complicit. Cary hits new lows, drinking whiskey to cope, or avoid coping, and then he meets Ben Kamikani, a fisherman who can use another hand, and who offers Cary a chance to start back.  Things sagged (for me, at least) when Merritt rewinds the clock to tell the story of Victoria’s childhood in Iowa and the couple’s marriage in California, but then he brings the reader back to Hilo.  The novel is at its strongest in Hawai’i, depicting the lives of Kona and Hilo fishermen whom most tourists will never know.

Merritt has a blog, and in the comments below he points out that he has posted pictures relevant to the Hawai’i portions of the novel. You can read Chapter 2 at Bit O’Lit. Cherie Parker was disappointed by the ending, though she toned down the objection here. Marilyn Dalrymple says readers will become hypnotically involved with the characters. Dee interviewed Merritt for Bookbuffet.com. Merritt panned the D.C. arts scene in the Washington City Paper.

Buy it at Amazon.com.

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mean
Photo of Hawai’i street art by dubside used under a Creative Commons license.

Cedric Yamanaka, In Good Company (University of Hawai’i Press, 2002).
Short stories set in the Hawai’i most visitors never see, in billiards halls and basketball courts and bowling alleys and drive-ins. Yamanaka’s characters live on the troubled side of paradise, where dreams keep outpacing reality, and where life is messier than the postcards of Diamond Head.

Here is Google Book Search, with a preview and other creamy goodness. Wanda A. Adams (Honolulu Advertiser) recommended it as one of the best books of 2002. I can’t tell whose review this is. Nadine Kam profiled Yamanaka for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Honolulu Weekly had this to say when the book came out. It says here that Yamanaka, previously a TV news reporter, became the Governor’s press secretary. That didn’t stop him from writing this piece for Honolulu Magazine about ghost stories.

Buy it at Amazon.com.

Pearl Harbor
Photo of the wreck of the U.S.S. Arizona by jasonpearce used under a Creative Commons license.

Gordon W. Prange, At Dawn We Slept (Penguin, 1982).
A magisterial and comprehensive account of the December 7, 1941, attack by the Japanese Navy on Pearl Harbor. Prange researched the events leading up to that day for decades before his death in 1980. There is much here about the events of 1941 which heightened the incipient conflict between the two countries and the thinking of key leaders on both sides. The tragedies and heroics of the fateful day are well told here also. This is the history by which other accounts of Pearl Harbor must be measured.

Here is Wikipedia’s page about Prange. Here is his obituary in The Des Moines Register. Here is a longer review by Gaddis Smith in The New York Times and a shorter review by him in Foreign Affairs. Mayo Mohs reviewed it in Time. More from Antoni Chmielowski and Michael Doubler. Here is an article in National Geographic about the wreck of the U.S.S. Arizona. With the right JSTOR affiliation, you can read Akira Iriye’s review in The Journal of American History, but I can’t.

Buy it at Amazon.com.