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A midwestern narrator in Hawaii responds to the adultery of her native-born husband by penetrating familial and native myths--in a first novel that's at best a sharp-edged portrayal of the outsider confronted by forces she doesn't understand, but too often indulges in the merely personal details of a disintegrating marriage. Jesse Quill, born in Kilmer, Kansas (""A railroad signal, long defunct, some tracks, a few scattered houses and family bones""), lives in a house under a mango tree in Hawaii with her daughter and husband Paul. Paul's father ""cut himself off after the early death of his wife and disinherited his child""; as a result, Paul receives an allowance from the estate only if he stays away from Revere--the family homestead now inhabited by a woman named Mihana and her daughter Maya. Although Maya is their own daughter's best friend, Paul takes up with her when Jesse and that daughter return alone to Kansas to see her stiff-lipped family. Back in Hawaii, the marriage begins to fall apart (""The choice in an argument is whether to speak or not to speak. . .fore there is no hope either way""). Mihana serves as a vehicle pontificating on the magic of the Hawaiian land and its ancestors, and things turn very soapy: Paul leaves Jesse for Maya, Jesse in retaliation sleeps with someone, a journal reveals a sordid family history (Maya is Paul's sister), and Maya, abandoned temporarily by a near-mad Paul, comes to stay with Jesse: ""Together, twins abandoned, we suffered flora the same disease."" The incest doesn't bother Mihana (""Here, in Hawaii, the love between a brother and sister is the best""), but Jesse (deciding ""There is power in chants"") goes visionary or mad--it's not clear which--and describes how she drowns Paul. Revealing as travelogue and cultural commentary, this first American edition of a novel published in England and Canada is finally too cluttered in its attempt to contrast midwestern and Hawaiian sensibilities.

Pub Date: Sept. 18th, 1989
Publisher: Birch Lane/Carol Communications