A first collection of interconnected stories set in the coastal village of Luhi, on the island of Maui, by a Japanese- American born and raised in Hawaii. Point of view alternates gracefully among villagers of different age, sex, and race— Japanese, Chinese, Caucasian, Hawaiian and bapa, or mixed. In the O. Henry-winning title story, a young Japanese woman, weak of stomach, insists upon apprenticing herself to Auntie Talking to the Dead, a kahuna who prepares bodies for burial, because `` was she who understood the wholeness of things—the significance of directions and colors.'' A prevailing theme here is the conflict between the ``wholeness'' of traditional lifestyle and so-called progress. In the powerful ``The Caves of Okinawa,'' a Japanese-American WW II veteran tries to give his son, on leave from Vietnam, a ticket to Canada but is thwarted by his wife, who, though she, too, lives for their son, cannot face the dishonor of desertion. The father's war trauma involved his participation in the dynamiting of caves in which Japanese soldiers and villagers hid. Then, in ``A Spell of Kona Weather,'' we learn that the son has been killed in Vietnam. ``Spell'' seems incomplete, however; and, similarly, ``Certainty''—in which a young pregnant woman learns from her elderly mother what really happened the day her father left—seems at once too obvious and troubled by half-raised questions. ``A Summer Waltz,'' two children playing dress-up, is no more than a fragment; but fully realized pieces include the lovely ``Anchorage'' (a daughter and her grandmother fight a losing battle against Alzheimer's in her father), and ``The Prayer Lady'' (an old man wants to leave with his dead son on the night of the bon dance, when the Japanese send the dead spirits back to the sea). With her unearthing of the heartbreak that lies beneath Hawaii's sunny landscape, Watanabe makes an uneven but promising debut.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-385-41887-6

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1992

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.


A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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