I loved, loved Honolulu, by Alan Brennert! (I think this book deserves 'loved' in capital letters.) Honolulu is just one of those books that sucks you in -- with its story, characters and great writing -- and compels you to read just one more chapter, even though it's already 2 a.m.
Honolulu tells the story of Regret, the only girl born to a traditional Korean family. Wishing to learn, Regret approaches her father, only to be beat down and berated. As a last resort, Regret secretly offers herself up as a picture bride (equivalent of a mail-order bride), telling her parents only once the match is complete. Disowned by her father, Regret travels to Hawaii to meet the rich, handsome husband promised by the matchmaker. Stuck in steerage on a ship bound for Hawaii, Regret befriends her fellow picture brides. Upon arrival, the girls are all faced with a similar fate -- the rich and handsome men they saw in the photos are actually old, unattractive and mostly poor.
Honolulu is a very accurate depiction of life in 20th century Hawaii. In the epilogue, Alan Brennert explains that various events described in the novel are historically accurate. Publisher's Weekly criticized this aspect of the book, saying it was too much of "an encyclopedic portrait of Hawaii in the early 1900s," but I must disagree. I think Honolulu is a great way to learn about that part of Hawaii's history while enjoying the story. I only wish we read more books like this in history class.
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