Excerpt from Honolulu by Alan Brennert, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Honolulu

By Alan Brennert

Honolulu
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  • Hardcover: Mar 2009,
    368 pages.
    Paperback: Feb 2010,
    464 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

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“I was thinking perhaps misoyaki,” he said with studied casualness.

“They are Japanese.”

I was more than mildly surprised, but said only, “Perhaps some mochi for dessert?”

“Yes, good.”

“When will they be coming?”

“Tomorrow evening at six o’clock.”

We spoke no more of it until the following evening at six, when a spindly Japanese man in a threadbare suit entered the restaurant with his wife and four children in tow. I was not looking at them but at him—there was an earnest grace to the way he bowed to me, smiled and said, “Hello. We have table. I am Taizo.”

I bowed in return. “Konicha wa, Taizo-san. I am honored to meet you. My name is Jin—my husband has told me much about you.”

“And he speaks of you with great fondness. This is my wife, Tamiko.”

I looked at the woman standing behind him, holding an infant child, and surely betrayed my surprise at seeing my old friend from the Nippon Maru. Tamiko smiled and bowed, then said, as if we were meeting for the first time: “I am pleased to meet you, Jin-san. This is my daughter Sugi, my sons Hiroshi and Jiro, and our newest child, who is also named Jin. Is that not a coincidence?” Her eyes glittered with amusement. “In Japanese it means ‘tenderness.’ ”

Jae-sun appeared from the kitchen, greeting Taiko with evident warmth as he escorted the family to a table. As Tamiko and I followed behind our husbands we exchanged wordless smiles. But Jiro was regarding me uncertainly, perhaps with a faint memory of crackseed on his tongue. “I know you,” he said at last.

“Of course you do,” I said, pulling a chair out for him. “We are all going to be great friends.”

As these ties were renewed, so were others. At the start of the Christian New Year of 1924, I had received a letter from my elder brother, informing me that Blossom, now sixteen years old, had made another attempt to flee the Pak home. The weariness in which he couched this news made me think that perhaps the time was finally right to again broach a sore subject. What’s more, the following month would see the start of the Korean Year of the Rat. It had been the Year of the Rat twelve years ago, when Blossom first came to our home in Pojogae, and I took this as an auspicious omen. After consulting with Jae-sun, I wrote to Joyful Day:

It sounds as if little sister-in-law is becoming increasingly troublesome. Someone who so obviously hates where she is will hardly make for a pliant and dutiful wife. Would it not be better for all concerned if she were to come here to Hawai'i instead?
My husband and I are prepared to offer you the sum of one hundred dollars—two hundred yen—to dissolve Blossom’s obligation to the clan. We will also pay for her steamer fare to Hawai'i. You need do nothing but apply for the proper papers. If Father will not consider sister-in-law’s well-being, perhaps he will consider what two hundred yen might do for his clan’s.

The reply, which arrived a month later, was brief and to the point:

Little Sister:

Father has given due consideration to your generous offer and wishes me to tell you that he agrees to your terms.
Please advise us on how you wish to proceed.

Your elder brother

I was ecstatic and wrote back to request they begin the process of applying for Blossom’s passport and visa. Once they had obtained these, we would send them a steamship ticket and either mail or wire them the hundred dollars. But in order for Blossom to enter the country, she had to be engaged to marry a man in the United States. I discreetly inquired of several young men of our acquaintance whether they would be willing to lend their names to the fiction of an arranged marriage. Ronald Yun, the twenty-year-old son of a neighbor, agreed to assist in this bit of subterfuge—even to marry Blossom if there was no other way to get her into the country, a marriage that would later be annulled.

Excerpted from Honolulu by Alan Brennert, Copyright © 2009 by Alan Brennert. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press, a division of Macmillan, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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