The author of the Hilo Trilogy (Blu’s Hanging, 1997, etc.) takes a dark and surreal journey into the realm of personal anguish.
Hawaiian native Yamanaka’s narrative is bleak and wonderfully crafted from the opening passage on: “Sonny Boy, son of Sonia . . . Feel the squinting of my eyes, the gritting of my teeth, the closing of my fists. Here is my hand to cover your mouth. Here are my fists to crush your skull.” What follows are the memories of Sonia Kurisu as she overcomes her guilt for the three babies she aborted, and devotes herself against odds to the one she is now raising. Sliding randomly among past, present, dreams, and hallucinations, the story’s development is less linear than circular, beginning and ending at the same place: Sonia’s quest for atonement. Living in Las Vegas with her junkie boyfriend, Drake, and his he/she friend permanently positioned on the couch, Sonia struggles to raise Sonny Boy while finishing her art degree and working as Tiger Lily Wong in a casino lounge. Her life is a hazy wash of drugs, her toddler’s wailing, and the ghosts of the three fetuses in the past, whom she calls Number One, the Turtle, and Jar. The ghosts beckon and taunt; they want her—but for what? Interspersed between excursions into Sonia’s fantasy life are memories of her childhood, growing up poor in Hawaii with an angry mother and a father whose presence is felt only in the form of letters he sends from around the world, philosophical prose poems on the nature of existence. It is her father, Joseph, back from some exotic journey, who pulls Sonia back into the here and now by warning her that something is wrong with her child. When Sonny Boy is diagnosed as autistic, Sonia returns to Hawaii looking for a way to save him, though it soon becomes apparent that the boy she now calls Little Priest will instead save her.
A beautifully realized work, imagistic and poetic, awash in the powers of blood and redemption.