"Honolulu" by Alan Brennert

Davina Morgan-Witts, BookBrowse editor

Back in 2003, Alan Brennert published Moloka'i, set on the Hawaiian island of the same name which, for many years, was home to the isolated leper colony at Kalaupapa. The book was a sleeper hit, in large part due to the enormous amount of time and enthusiasm Alan put into reaching out to book clubs and spending time with them chatting about his book.

Now he's back with Honolulu, to be published in March 2009.

Honolulu explores the early years of Hawaii's capital city through the eyes of a Korean 'picture bride' who arrived in Hawaii in the early years of the 20th century. The term picture bride refers to a practice in which Asian immigrant workers (usually Japanese or Koreans) selected brides from their native countries via a matchmaker's photograph (a precursor to today's "mail-order brides" which, incidentally, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services estimate result in between 4,000 to 6,000 marriages between US men and foreign brides each year).

We'll publish our full review of Honolulu closer to the book's publication, but here's a few snippets of our review, written by Kim Kovacs:

"Historical fiction should have the power to transport readers in time. A well-written novel in this genre can so mesmerize readers that they come to feel they understand what it was like to live in a past era, as if they have truly experienced the sights, smells and cultures of a time and place beyond their personal knowledge. In Honolulu, author Alan Brennert succeeds brilliantly in this goal.

At first, Honolulu seems like a rehash of many recent historical fiction novels that have focused on the role of women in Asian cultures (Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Memories of a Geisha, the works of Amy Tan). Even after the main character reaches Hawaii, much of the plot is predictable. Brennert's writing, however, is so compelling that readers soon find they are unable to put the book down. Fortunately, its story departs from the expected after the first five chapters or so, after which it becomes an absorbing study of Asian culture in Hawaii as seen through the eyes of a Korean woman.

... Honolulu is everything a good historical fiction novel should be. It entertains and educates, while immersing the reader in the time and place conveyed. It is sure to find its way to many hearts and bookshelves."

Find out more about Alan Brennert at BookBrowse, or at his website.

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