One of the really awesome perks of my new job is that it involves travel. And I’m not just talking travel to the state next door to bunk with the bedbugs at a Motel 6, I’m talking travel to amazing places. Like Kauai, Hawaii. In December. When there will likely be ice storms here in Blacksburg, Virginia. I’ve already bought swimsuits on end-of-the-summer clearance, and I splurged on a new lens for my camera. And can you guess what else I bought to prepare for this bucket-list trip?
That’s right. A novel set in Hawaii.
And it was a good one, too. I read several books set in Hawaii a few years ago when I was feeling the urge to immerse myself in surf culture and the lush history of these exotic islands – Molokai’i by Alan Brenert, Paradise Park by Allegra Goodman, Shark Dialogues by Kiana Davenport – and while I didn’t get as much about surf culture as I originally set out for, I did get a feel for the rich, and heartbreaking, history of the Hawaiian islands.
This most recent book I read was a story about complacency, and about the irony that we drift away from the things we love when we become content with them – when we stop working for them: our spouses, our children, our lives, our land. The book was The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings, and it was excellent. Hawaii was not the main character, nor was it really a secondary one – there were few flowery descriptions of scenery – but the story was infused with wry Hawaiian truths that help me understand that these islands are not just a tourist’s paradise, but an ancient people’s home:
I remember him at our many gatherings in Hanalei, the families getting together for Christmas break in the old plantation homes with their creaky floors and poor lighting, mosquito nets and ghosts.
The author also peppered the story with just enough setting that I’m dying to get there and see it myself:
At the club the shrubs are covered in surfboards.
I’ve read my Washington, D.C. books and will be working on that writeup soon, but I couldn’t resist jumping ahead to Hawaii with this dream travel on the horizon. If you’ve read any great Hawaii-set literature*, I’d love to hear about it in the comments. I’ve still got four good weeks of reading before I board my flight, and as far as I’m concerned, my literature consumption can be all Hawaii, all the time, until the moment I step foot on Kauai and am in Hawaii for real.
*I’d particularly love a good surfing novel.