cover image This Is Paradise: Stories

This Is Paradise: Stories

Kristiana Kahakauwila. Hogarth, $16 trade paper (240p) ISBN 978-0-7704-3625-4

Kahakauwila’s debut short-story collection offers a stirring glimpse into the daily lives of contemporary Hawaiians torn between native traditions and the pull of mainland lifestyles. The profound differences between a Hawaiian and her white boyfriend threaten their relationship in “The Road to Hana”; a girl mourns her grandmother’s death in “Thirty-Nine Rules for Making a Hawaiian Funeral into a Drinking Game”; and in the title piece, young Hawaiian women working at a beachside resort observe a naïve tourist’s tragic fate. Varying in style and theme, the book’s six stories conjure up memorable characters, from a man struggling to reveal his homosexuality to his sister and dying father (“The Old Paniolo Way”) to a woman who seeks to avenge her father’s death by engaging in the gruesome business of cock-fighting (“Wanle”). Beyond questions of identity, Kahakauwila also explores domestic life, as in “Portrait of a Good Father,” about a family torn apart by a husband’s affair and his son’s death. Filled with an energy and outrage reminiscent of Jamaica Kincaid, Kahakauwila also gives her characters distinct voices that mix Hawaiian and mainland-American dialects. Altogether, a well-crafted work that compassionately treats the men and women who love and suffer in an island paradise. Agent: Markus Hoffman, Regal Literary. (July)