(St. Martin’s Press, 2009)
HONOLULU is the richly imagined story of Jin, a young “picture bride” who leaves her native Korea—where girls are so little valued that she is known as Regret—and 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 another spellbinding story of the triumphs and sacrifices of the human spirit from the author of the reading group favorite MOLOKA'I.
PRAISE FOR HONOLULU
"Successful historical fiction doesn't just take a story and doll it up with period detail. It plunges readers into a different world and defines the historical and cultural pressures the characters face in that particular time and place. That's what Los Angeles writer Alan Brennert did in his previous novel, Moloka'i, the story of diseased Hawaiians exiled in their own land. He has done it again in 'Honolulu,' which focuses on the Asian immigrant experience in Hawaii... A moving, multilayered epic by a master of historical
fiction." --San Francisco Chronicle
"'Regret' is the given name of the protagonist of Alan Brennert's beautiful, sprawling novel Honolulu... Brennert's realization of a character of so different a time, place and gender of his own is an amazing accomplishment in itself. Honolulu is a delight."
"Dazzling, rich... a fascinating literary snapshot of Hawaii during the early years of the last century. The story is compelling, poignant, and powerful." --Tucson Citizen
"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." -- Elle Magazine
"This sweeping, epic novel follows Jin from her homeland of Korea to a new life on the blossoming Hawaiian Islands... Seeing life through Jin’s eyes is a pleasure as she changes from a farm-bound, repressed immigrant girl to an outgoing, educated member of Hawaiian society. Brennert (Moloka'i) weaves the true stories of early Hawaii into his fictional tale, and many of the captivating people Jin encounters are real. His depiction of the effects of the Depression is startling. 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."
--Library Journal (starred review)
"This delightful, suspense-filled feminist novel and social history movingly portrays the ambivalence, confusion and longing suffered by immigrants making their way in a new world, but reveals how women who may be powerless individually can band together into a triumphant sororal circle of unstoppable strength." --Newark Star-Ledger
"A well-researched and deftly written tale... Brennert has a good eye for places we can't see anymore: plantation life before the unions gained power; Chinatown when it was all tenements; Waikiki before the high-rises started going up. And it's clear he has real affection for the little people and places he so vividly brings to life. He's not just using historic Honolulu as a place to set a novel; he's bringing it to life for people who haven't had the chance to imagine it before."
-- Honolulu Star-Bulletin
"Jin is an admirable character and an apt storyteller, and the arc of her life provides a fascinating look at an often untold and decidedly unglamorous side of 20th-century Hawaii. It’s intriguing and visceral... [a] poignant, colorful story." --Kirkus Reviews
"Meticulously researched . . . [Brennert] intersperses cultural details—song lyrics, movies, popular books from the era—that add textured authenticity, and he incorporates major historic events . . . 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.'" —The Washington Post
"Spanning more than four decades, Jin’s plaintive yet intrepid tale of spirited courage and staunch resolve is as audacious as that of the vibrant island nation whose own polyglot heritage becomes increasingly endangered as it transitions from U.S. territory to fiftieth state. Brennert’s lush tale of ambition, sacrifice, and survival is immense in its dramatic scope yet intimate in its emotive detail." --Booklist
"Honolulu is everything a good historical fiction novel should be. It entertains and educates, while immersing the reader in the time and place conveyed. It is sure to find its way to many hearts and bookshelves." --Bookbrowse.com