I really thought I'd like this book a lot more than I did. I had heard good things, and it's set in a very interesting place and time, Hawaii in the lI really thought I'd like this book a lot more than I did. I had heard good things, and it's set in a very interesting place and time, Hawaii in the late 19th and early 20th Century. And it's about the famous leper colony on the island of Molokai. But the book was more soapy than evocative, more wide than deep. It was a breezy read, and it kept me interested, but it could have been a lot better. In some ways, I felt like I was reading the novelization of a television mini-series.
Others here have commented on historical errors in the text. I want to comment on some baseball errors. The book only had a few baseball references, and I know this sounds like nitpicking, but I feel the need to vent a little bit. At one point, the author mentions that "three of the four bases were loaded." In over 40 years of watching baseball, I've never seen a runner on home plate. And get this: With a runner on second base, a line drive is hit to left field. The runner gets to third "and unwisely decided to steal home. The ball was quickly thrown from an infielder to the catcher, who stepped onto home plate at pretty much the same moment the Nisei slid into it." The runner, despite not being tagged, is called out.
I understand that not everybody knows much about baseball. But the author should have had somebody who does know proofread his text. I couldn't write about hockey, for example, without sounding like a fool, but if I did write something that included a hockey passage, I'd be sure to find a hockey fan to give it a look. Trying to score from second base isn't "stealing" and in that situation, the runner wouldn't be called out unless he was tagged by the catcher. Did this ruin the book for me? No. But it did make me wonder what other stuff he got wrong.
I didn't mean to include two thick paragraphs about three baseball-related errors in the text, but somebody had to say something! ...more
After being disappointed by The Wordy Shipmates, I wasn't too pleased to discover that most of the first half of this book was also about Puritans froAfter being disappointed by The Wordy Shipmates, I wasn't too pleased to discover that most of the first half of this book was also about Puritans from New England. Unfamiliar Fishes was better than Wordy Shipmates but I still haven't found the Sarah Vowell book that's as good as Assassination Vacation or even The Partly Cloudy Patriot. I'm not at all certain that I'll read any more of her books.
I am familiar with the history of Hawaii and how its annexation by the United States came about, but it was interesting to get Vowell's mildly snarky take on it. I don't seem to share her fascination with Puritans; I think she leaned too heavily on that one aspect of Hawaiian history and didn't focus enough on the latter "haoles" who played a more significant role in Hawaii's loss of independence.