Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Honolulu- Review

Title:  Honolulu
Author:  Alan Brennert
Publisher:  St. Martin's Press

Goodreads Summary:

As a young Korean woman at the onset of 20th century, Regret knows that there is only one possible avenue to the education she seeks. She must become a mail-order bride. She travels to Hawaii to meet the man she has agreed to marry, but it becomes apparent all too quickly that he is not the genteel, prosperous young man she imagined he would be. Instead, she finds herself yoked to an impoverished plantation worker addicted to alcohol and gambling. Her painful situation forces her to fend for herself and form beneficial alliances with other "picture brides." This powerful historical novel draws you into the plight of a woman swimming in the uncertainty of a new culture.

My thoughts:

I loved this book- maybe not as much as Moloka'i, but I still am completely enamored by the worlds that Brennert creates.  What a brave woman Regret is- throughout the book, she is a force to be reckoned with, shedding like layers the ideals of her ancestors in order to live the life and be the woman she desires.  I can't imagine how frightening it would be to leave my country, language, family, and way of life behind to marry a man I had only met through a photo as a "picture bride"- what courage you must have, and what determination.  She had some serious guts, sparked initially by Regret's wish to learn and read.  I love that she chose a new name for herself, to reflect her new life- Jin, meaning Gem.  

I was surprised by the amount of racism and prejudice that existed in Hawaii at the time in this book - I never thought about, or really had anything bring this particular area and time frame (both Hawaii and Korea) into my thoughts.  The problems at the time between the Koreans and Japanese, or between the native Hawaiian people and those of the newcomers to the islands - both lands invaded by another.  I know that my husband's grandmother, a native Hawaiian, suffered at the hands of racism when she moved away from the islands in the 1960s to the southern United States, as did my mother-in-law and her siblings.  Apparently I guess I thought the times between the missionaries trying to change the Hawaiian people and the 60s was a time of equality and peace.  How naive and uninformed I feel.  

This book was beautiful in every way- I loved the descriptions of the characters lives, their courage, their love and loyalty for their friends and family, the part with May and W. Somerset Maugham.  Regret, such a sad and tragic name, made a wonderful life for herself, and made peace with her family at the end.  I almost wish this book wouldn't have ended!

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