Tag Archives: friendships

Daughter of Moloka’i by Alan Brennert

Moloka’i told the story of Rachel Utagawa, nee Kalama, who lived in the Kalaupapa lazaretto from age 7 when she was diagnosed with leprosy. This book follows her daughter Ruth’s life, from the moment she was taken away from Rachel and her husband Kenji, for her health’s sake. Dear Reader watches her adoptive parents choose her, the half-Japanese, half-Hawaiian 5-year-old at the orphanage, sees her come of age on a California farm, and witnesses her incarceration in the Japanese internment camps in the US during WWII, along with her parents, brothers, husband, and children. This novel connects with the first one when Ruth meets Rachel, in the same scene from Ruth’s perspective this time, a brilliant and heartening re-telling of an emotionally charged meeting.

Brennert traverses the nuances of racism, fear of contagion, and human rights as he tells of the horror of being found out as a victim of leprosy in late 19th / early 20th century Hawai’i, and the dread of a child separated from her family to live with strangers. As with especially well-written historical fiction, the setting of Hawai’i / Moloka’i becomes its own character, showing Hawai’i’s children growing up surfing, the US stealing the islands from the last monarch, Queen Lili’uokalani, and the evolution of the lazaretto. Brennert touches upon Hawai’ian and Japanese honor, race relations and the lack of internment camps for Japanese in Hawai’i. He digs deep into Hawai’ian folklore, with a supporting character who is a native healer, how the “separating sickness” destroys families, and how friendship blends into family.

I was fortunate to receive a copy of this beautiful novel from St. Martin’s Press. I highly recommend reading Moloka’i for full immersion into the multi-generational story.

The Truth Waits by Susanna Beard

Anna finds a teenage girl’s body on the beach in Lithuania while on a business trip to her textile factory. Prevented from leaving by a natural disaster, she meets a journalist named Will, who moves into her carefully constructed life. He and her friends warn her against pursuing the girl’s murder, but her own past urges her on, until she finds herself in danger, and Will is incommunicado. Beard portrays a workaholic with repressed emotions and memories vividly, though Anna seems to throw up a lot and has quite a few anxiety attacks, not to mention the breakdown from grief. The story seems as self-oriented as Anna, focusing on her distress throughout, when it could have explored the horrors of sex trafficking further. Even as Anna is justified in her wavering faith in Will, his character is not developed enough for the reader to make a judgment call either way. Though the story is a good one, it could have given a little more weight toward other characters, and even considered location a main character in its cultural presence, but Anna simply comes across as too neurotic to notice anything else. I was graciously given a digital copy by the publisher through NetGalley.

Bring Me Back by B.A. Paris—pub date June 19, 2018

Finn told police the half-truth about Layla disappearing from a rest stop on their vacation in Fonches, France. More than a dozen years later, strange happenings at home in England make Finn believe that Layla is alive and upset that he is about to marry her sister. Paris leads the reader on a wild adventure, implicating culprits right and left, with Finn alternately dismissing suspicions and accusing friends aggressively. Hints of Layla show up in objects significant to her life and emails with information only she would know, causing Finn dreadful hope. The author brilliantly traverses through the landscape of a troubled mind, then reverts to a trope of spelling out the resolution in a lengthy letter, a bit disappointing after such magnificent writing. The resolution itself may astonish the most clever reader in its unique take on the concept. It’s a definite must read. I was fortunate to receive an ARC of this fantastic thriller from the publisher through NetGalley.