WHEN STRANGE GODS CALL by Pam Chun

WHEN STRANGE GODS CALL

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Another Hawaiian family saga from Chun (The Monkey Dragon, 2002), this about a young woman who returns to Honolulu after 12 years on the mainland and slowly begins to make peace with her past.

Miki Ai’Lee is about as Hawaiian as you can get. The daughter of an old and powerful Chinese family that settled in Hawaii in the 19th century, Miki left Hawaii in 1958 to go to college in San Francisco and never came back. Why? She became an art historian and college professor there, but there are universities in Hawaii, too. Family history has more to do with it. For the last 150 years in Hawaii, the Chinese immigrants have fought the American settlers for cultural and political dominance—and two of the greatest rivals in this struggle have been the Ai’Lee and Demming families. The Demmings first came to Hawaii from New England as missionaries, but by the turn of the 20th century they had become wealthy landowners and traders. Their feud with the Ai’Lees began when Arthur Demming fell in love with a young Hawaiian princess who spurned him to marry Chun Ai’Lee, Miki’s great-grandfather. In revenge, Demming spent years plotting against the Ai’Lees and eventually managed to steal their lands from them. The Ai’Lees recovered and prospered once more, but not before putting a curse on the Demmings that has brought misery to the family ever since. By the time Miki was born in 1940 such things were not talked about much, but her family was horrified nevertheless when Miki fell in love with classmate Alex Demming. Miki has no chance of a happy ending with Alex, so she gives up on him and makes her own life far from home. But when she returns to Hawaii in 1970 to look after her ailing grandmother, she meets up again with Alex, whose life has not gone according to plan, either. Maybe there are second acts in life after all.

Melodramatic and corny, but, nonetheless, a good family epic enlivened with a nice locale and a stiff dose of history.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2004
ISBN: 1-4022-3030-9
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 2004