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Bird of Another Heaven Hardcover – March 20, 2007

4.8 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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The Secret Healer
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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
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf (March 20, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 140004202X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400042029
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 1.3 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,251,874 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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By Lynn Harnett VINE VOICE on May 4, 2007
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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By A Customer on 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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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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I always like to have a book about Hawaii when traveling there on holiday. This book was an excellent choice. Great writing by Mr Houston and very informative about the historical complexities of the monarchy, the missionaries and relationship to the US even though it's a novel.
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