Trudy's Reviews > Honolulu

Honolulu by Alan Brennert
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's review
Aug 15, 2012

liked it

I liked this book more than Molokai, because it was a bit more joyful, although not at all lacking in heartache and tragedy. Regret, the main character, is born into a traditional Korean, Confucian family. Her name suggests the welcome her birth received. She longs for an education, but has to content herself with being able to read- taught by a kesaeng, a Korean geisha- whom her Aunt Obedience engaged for that purpose. When Regret hears that Korean men are looking for wives in Hawaii, she and her friend, Sunny, sign up to be picture wives. Regret has the bad fortune of signing on to be Mr. Noh's wife. He's a drunk who treats her miserably. When he kills their unborn child by beating her, she finds the courage to leave him, escaping to Honolulu. She finally divorces him (unseemly behavior for a compliant Korean woman) and eventually meets, falls in love with, and marries Jae Sun. Included in the narrative are some actual historical events, including the death of Joe Kahahawai, at the hand of the Massies, haoles who accused Joe and his friends of rape. This highlights Hawaiian distrust of white people. Also based on a real person is the character of Chang Apana, a Chinese detective for the Honolulu police force, upon whom the fictional Charlie Chan is based.

Regret takes the name Jin, and reinvents herself many times as the shifting political and economic winds bring unemployment and social instability. In the end, Jin has accomplished her youthful goal: to make something of her life.
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