Honolulu is the richly imagined story of Jin, a young picture bride who leaves her native Koreawhere girls are so little valued that she is known as Regretand journeys to Hawaii in 1914 in search of a better life.
Instead of the prosperous young husband and the chance at an education she has been promised, Jin is quickly married off to a poor, embittered laborer who takes his disappointments out on his new wife, forcing her to make her own way in a strange land.
Struggling to build a business with the help of her fellow picture brides, Jin finds both opportunity and prejudice, but ultimately transforms herself from a naive young girl into a resourceful woman. Prospering along with her adopted city, which is fast growing from a small territorial capital to the great multicultural city it is today, Jin can never forget the people she left behind in Korea, and returns one last time to make her peace with her former life.
With its passionate knowledge of people and places in Hawaii far off the tourist track, Honolulu is a spellbinding story of the triumphs and sacrifices of the human spirit that is sure to become another reading group favorite.
Honolulu is everything good historical fiction should be. It entertains and educates, while immersing the reader in the time and place conveyed, and it's sure to find its way into many readers' hearts. (Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).
[I]n mooring this familiar character to the unique history of early-20th-century Hawaii, Brennert portrays the Aloha State's history as complicated and dynamic -- not simply a melting pot, but a Hawaiian-style "mixed plate" in which, as Jin sagely notes, "many different tastes share the plate, but none of them loses its individual flavor, and together they make up a uniquely 'local' cuisine."
Veteran Hollywood writer Alan Brennert scored a book-club hit with Moloka'i and has apparently one-upped himself with his freestanding follow-up about early-twentieth-century Hawaii, which was our readers' clear favorite... a lovely novel.
San Francisco Chronicle
A moving, multilayered epic by a master of historical fiction.
Brennert takes perhaps too much care in creating an encyclopedic portrait of Hawaii in the early 1900s .... Luckily, Jin's story should be strong enough to pull readers through the clutter.
Booklist - Carol Hagas
Brennert’s lush tale of ambition, sacrifice, and survival is immense in its dramatic scope yet intimate in its emotive detail.
"Starred Review. Let’s hope Brennert follows up this second novel with a third and continues to capture this intriguing and little-explored segment of American history in beautifully told stories."
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Linda Parker Honolulu The book was great I put myself in the heart of Regret and I followed the path she took it made the book come alive and the experiences so emotional to me. I experienced many different emotions while reading the book. I am in a cultural book club... Read More
Rated of 5
by MAKIT Rich and Colorful Book Filled with True Emotions A colorful book and filled with true emotions. A must read!
Rated of 5
by Pat Henry Dec.7th? Great book. But it suddenly jumps ahead to the 50's, as I remember.
Did the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hickam Field and Honolulu never happen? How did the main character and others in the book react to that?
Rated of 5
by Maureen Metheny Great read! I loved this book. It was entertaining and informative -- I couldn't put it down. Appreciated the chance to learn about early Hawaii. Will look for more by this author.
Rated of 5
by Diane Honolulu Honolulu was very compelling and extremely well researched. I especially enjoyed learning more about Hawaii (Honolulu) in its early years through the eyes of a picture bride. Alan Brennert has been added to my list of favorite authors. His earlier... Read More
Rated of 5
by Susan Reiners No Rose-Colored Glasses This book has what I look for in a book: it took me to a time and place not well known to me in the company of people I care about. Even the bad guys are more than cardboard people.
The story follows Gen,an extremely restricted traditional... Read More
Korean Picture Brides
Korea became the object of Japan's colonial ambitions in the late nineteenth century, culminating in Japan's annexation of the region in 1910. Koreans, escaping the abuse and heavy taxation imposed by the Japanese, began immigrating to Hawaii. Approximately 6000 migrated to the islands between 1906 and 1910, 90% of whom were male. Most ended up as laborers on sugarcane plantations. The Japanese government prohibited emigration to Hawaii starting in 1910, but provided an exception for relatives of those already living in Hawaii.
A shortage of marriageable women, combined with the loophole in Japan's immigration laws, allowed for the rise of the "picture bride." A Korean man in Hawaii would provide a photograph of himself to a matchmaker, along with the appropriate fees and expenses. The broker would then arrange for a Korean woman to travel to Hawaii to be the man's wife. Arranged marriages were the norm for Asian cultures; the picture bride system was simply an extension of an existing practice.
A deeply engaging new novel, set in both our time and the late nineteenth century. It centers on a California woman, half Indian, half Hawaiian, who became consort and confidante to the last king of Hawaii.
New York Times bestselling author David L. Robbins presents a riveting novel of war, love, and survival, set against the backdrop of an improbable rescue, the Los Baños prison raid -- one of the most daring episodes of World War II.
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