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Bird of Another Heaven [Kindle Edition]

James D. Houston
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $14.95
Kindle Price: $9.99
You Save: $4.96 (33%)
Sold by: Random House LLC

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New Adult Fiction by Rainbow Rowell
Acclaimed author Rainbow Rowell's latest book, Landline, offers a poignant, humorous look at relationships and marriage. Learn more

Book Description

From the acclaimed author of Snow Mountain Passage comes this richly evocative novel that follows a half-Indian, half-Hawai'ian woman and her complex relationship with the last king of Hawai'i.

When talk show host Sheridan Brody finds the journals of his great grandmother Nani Keala (aka Nancy Callahan), he uncovers a mythic, unknown tale. Nani, a shy girl from a remote Indian village, met the Hawai'ian king, David Kalakaua, on his grand progress by train across the United States in 1881, eventually returning with him to Honolulu. There, as his young ally and protégée, ever more assured and charming, she played an integral role in his attempt to revive the monarchy and spirit of his people and, eventually, witnessed the mysterious circumstances surrounding his downfall. Deeply engaging through its vivid portrayal of California and Hawai'i at the end of the nineteenth century, Bird of Another Heaven is a masterful portrait of an era long past.


From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

After his fictional treatment of the Donner Party (Snow Mountain Passage), Houston's superb ninth novel details the life of Sheridan "Dan" Brody, a young Northern California radio host intent on discovering the origins of his shrouded family heritage. Dan's curiosity is sparked after seeing, for the first time, his birth certificate, which lists the name of a father he never knew. Not long after, Rosa Wadell calls Dan's radio show and reveals herself to be the grandmother he never knew about. Through Rosa's stories and her mother's diaries, a clearer picture of Dan's family history emerges. Houston interweaves Dan's life in mid-1980s San Francisco with the Hawaiian tribal legacy of his great-grandmother, Nani Keala ("Nancy Callahan"), a pioneer who learned the Hawaiian ways of life and took her place at the side of Hawaii's last king, David Kalakaua. The two story lines converge as Dan learns of and begins to hunt for a secret audio recording made at San Francisco's Palace Hotel during King Kalakaua's final days. Though it gets off to a slow start, Houston builds momentum as the novel's scope widens, and the historical detail is mesmerizing. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* This carefully developed novel, which pulls readers inexorably into its rich recesses, rests on a theme not uncommon in contemporary fiction: the rather primal urge to know our personal heritage, to understand our forebears as individuals. The specific symbol of that pursuit, in this case, is a royal artifact from the collapsing years of the Hawaiian kingdom before its annexation by the U.S. Like a bolt from the blue, a San Francisco-area radio-show host receives a call from a woman insisting she is his grandmother. Primarily through a multivolume diary kept by her mother, two worlds, two cultures open up to his astonished and absorbent awareness: the final years of the reign of Hawaiian king David Kalakau and a California Indian tribe's shrinking as the nineteenth century comes to a close. Houston, author of, among other well-received novels, Snow Mountain Passage (2001), uses a technique currently popular in historical fiction: alternating his narrative between a past and present period of time, which serves a twofold purpose--not only ushering readers into a vivid visitation to the past but also drawing meaningful parallels between historical and present-day events, to gain for his readers an appreciation of the past's influence on choices individuals make these days. Brad Hooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • File Size: 380 KB
  • Print Length: 354 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0307388085
  • Publisher: Anchor (March 20, 2007)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000OVLKC2
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #757,822 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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4.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
Moving between his narrator's view in 1980s San Francisco and the narrator's great-grandmother's story a century earlier, Houston reels out a soulful tale of ruthless conquest and dying cultures in the context of a young man's search for roots and meaning.

Alternative-radio talk show host Sheridan Brody never knew his biological father. Sheridan Wadell died in the Korean War and his son was brought up by as good a stepfather as a boy could ask for. But when a woman claiming to be Sheridan's grandmother, Rosa Wadell, calls in to his radio show, he can't help but be intrigued.

In addition to pictures and stories of his dead father, Rosa has stacks of notebooks belonging to her mother, Nani Keala, a half Indian, half Hawaiian woman who was a friend and lover to the last king of Hawaii, David Kalakaua. She was a witness to the last days of her mother's tribal culture and her father's Hawaiian nation. She was with Kalakaua when he died in San Francisco and was always suspicious of the circumstances.

Nani was born in one of California's last Indian villages. The place slowly disappeared as elders died and young people moved off to find work and when Nani's parents died she was sent to a rancheria where Indian ways were preserved on a white man's estate.

There Nani lives a dutiful life, helping out in the Mistress' school, agreeing to marry a man she doesn't love. But then a Hawaiian kinsman comes to fetch her to see their king when he visits Sacramento. Her notebook entries are brief, stilted, even shy, but Sheridan fleshes them out with his own research and eager imaginings.

He recreates Nani's father's life, from his days exploring and establishing an outpost in the wilderness with Capt.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars powerful character study March 24, 2007
Format:Hardcover
In 1980s Northern California radio host Sheridan "Dan" Brody has always wondered about his roots, but did nothing to learn more about the identity of his father. However, when he sees his birth certificate, it includes the name of his sire. He wants to know more about his paternal side.

Not long afterward, Rosa Waddell calls Dan while he is on the air to inform him she is his grandmother. He goes to meet her and she shares family stories and her mother's diaries that tell quite a heritage. His great-grandmother was Nani Keala who was the wife of Hawaii's last king, David Kalakaua. Now Dan seeks an audio of his ancestor's regal trip to the Palace Hotel in San Francisco.

BIRD OF ANOTHER HEAVEN is a delightful tale of a San Franciscan seeking his roots. Once Rosa contacts Dan, the story line becomes one sitting throughout as readers will want to more about his Hawaiian ancestry and that missing tape. This it behooves fans of remarkable family dramas to give this fine novel a chance; once Dan gets started there is no turning back for him or the audience. James D. Houston provides a powerful character study of a soul searching person looking for his unknown heritage.

Harriet Klausner
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great history and good to read while in Hawaii January 27, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The last time I went to Hawaii I brought two books that were fiction but with Hawaiian history woven into the story. I really enjoyed that experience so I brought three books this time while on Maui.
The US was so horrible to the Hawaiian people - it's amazing they let us visit and welcome us to their islands.
Would recommend this book.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Voices of our kupuna need Release! June 13, 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This historical fiction is, first, a shock. To see a western writer with much empathy
for others not of his culture, in their time of stress and disdain...to see him give
Voice to those now deceased and having never been able to express their
views and beliefs. What a calling. What a talent. What a Blessing to some kanaka.

I have much more respect and love for this author and his work. Bird of another
Heaven is slow moving at times, but ever so worth the reading when one gets
to the hypothetical but reasonable (?) inference that possibly (?) one of the mission
boys had King Kalakaua poisoned? Yes, some believed such, but without proof...
one has to let such suspicions go, right?

The western genre, called historical fiction, provides the acceptable vehicle for
giving Voice to the powerless, disdained, under-valued. Wow! In the final
analysis, when we all leave this life for our Maker, we often wish for the
chance to give Voice, however unacceptable, to our experiences and tragedies- especially
when such Voice explains another part of the Story of how a famous
person in history met his End and how his Dynasty came to be Overthrown.

So Mr. Houston endeavors to extend some kind of emotional sense of Justice
to those whose hearts ached at the inability to tell their stories from their own
politically/socially... unacceptable... perspective during Territorial times in
Hawaii? So the descendants of the famous and common, now deceased, can feel some
sort of satisfaction from such a novel? Makes for good reading on a lonely night.

May the souls in their Sleep, rest better (?) in the bosom of Abraham, God Almighty,
and Jesus...for the writing of such fiction.
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