In Dembiczak’s debut novel, a woman on her honeymoon discovers deep truths about herself as she explores the paradise of Hawaii.
Sarah Chizeck weds her longtime boyfriend, Michael, a hotshot businessman in Silicon Valley. She’s college-educated and artistically talented but perpetually plagued by self-doubt. She and Michael marry in San Francisco, but as their supportive friends and family members congratulate them and comment on Sarah’s “radiant” appearance, she’s already making excuses for herself and silently regretting her betrothal. Sarah had relinquished her art-world career after getting engaged, and with a new life as a homemaker on the horizon, she begins to question her identity. She and Michael set off on their Hawaiian honeymoon, and he plays golf during the day as she drinks, naps and gorges herself on desserts in their suite, subconsciously punishing herself for her doubts. But when she meets Kalei, a handsome young concierge, she begins to truly enjoy her vacation and the beauty of the island. Kalei turns Sarah’s world upside down, and her attraction to him becomes a catalyst for important self-discoveries. Dembiczak paints a realistic, first-person portrait of a woman at her wits’ end. Sarah isn’t the most likable character; she’s flawed and often frustrating but very real, serving up plenty of self-deprecating humor on every page, as when she describes “a kind of tired that comes from living within oneself for too long.” She’s a poignant example of a woman who settles for comfort and security, and readers get the thrill of watching those priorities unravel; at one point, Sarah describes herself as “a bored housewife concocting her own dilemma to convince herself she was still complicated.” Overall, although this novel’s protagonist is no grand heroine, she’s definitely relatable and easy for readers to root for.
A pleasant read for both its lush tropical setting and uplifting message.