A debut historical novel examines three generations of women on the island of Guam and their complicated liaisons.
Gault weaves a tale that showcases the difficulties of inhabiting Guam, an island at the center of several political and natural disasters. The story follows one family across several decades, depicting events that span three wars. The book opens just after the Spanish-American War, when Guam becomes a territory of the United States. Maria Amanda de Leon, a beautiful, youthful Chamorro girl, native to the island of Guam, becomes irrevocably smitten with an American GI. Their ill-fated romance ends with the birth of a daughter just as the American seaman is called home to the United States permanently. Amanda’s daughter, Sylvia, grows up to endure her own beautiful but short-lived romance with a Chamorro man by the name of Constantino “Tino” Flores Camacho. Through no fault of his own, Tino becomes solely responsible for raising the couple’s daughter, Vivian, who, like her grandmother Amanda before her, falls in love with an American soldier. As each of these women navigates a complex relationship, the reader sees the people of Guam struggle to cope with natural disasters, like severe earthquakes and raging storms, as well as political turmoil caused by global uncertainty and seemingly continuous warfare. Throughout this nuanced, appealing, and often heart-wrenching story, Gault provides rich details about the Chamorro people and island life. In unhurried prose, the author offers perspectives from several of the book’s characters, allowing the reader to synthesize the varying viewpoints and create a complete picture. The extensive cultural descriptions specific to Guam and its people add a depth and singularity to the narrative, preventing this wartime romance from coming across as trite. While Gault tackles weighty political issues, including, most of all, the challenges of colonial rule, she also manages to tell a story that is simultaneously wistful and uplifting.
An engaging tale of familial history and cross-cultural romances.