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Honolulu [Kindle Edition]

Alan Brennert
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (541 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $15.99
Kindle Price: $9.99
You Save: $6.00 (38%)
Sold by: Macmillan

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Book Description

From the bestselling author of the “dazzling historical saga” (The Washington Post), Moloka’i, comes the irresistible story of a young immigrant bride in a ramshackle town that becomes a great modern city

“In Korea in those days, newborn girls were not deemed important enough to be graced with formal names, but were instead given nicknames, which often reflected the parents’ feelings on the birth of a daughter:  I knew a girl named Anger, and another called Pity.  As for me, my parents named me Regret.”

Honolulu is the rich, unforgettable story of a young “picture bride” who journeys to Hawai'i in 1914 in search of a better life.

Instead of the affluent young husband and chance at an education that she has been promised, she is quickly married off to a poor, embittered laborer who takes his frustrations out on his new wife. Renaming herself Jin, she makes her own way in this strange land, finding both opportunity and prejudice. With the help of three of her fellow picture brides, Jin prospers along with her adopted city, now growing from a small territorial capital into the great multicultural city it is today.  But paradise has its dark side, whether it’s the daily struggle for survival in Honolulu’s tenements, or a crime that will become the most infamous in the islands’ history...

With its passionate knowledge of people and places in Hawai'i far off the tourist track, Honolulu is most of all the spellbinding tale of four women in a new world, united by dreams, disappointment, sacrifices, and friendship.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Brennert's mostly successful follow-up to his book club phenomenon, Moloka'i, chronicles the lives of Asian immigrants in and around Hawaii's early 20th-century glamour days. As the tale begins, readers meet young Regret, whose name speaks volumes of her value in turn-of-the-20th-century Korea. Emboldened by her desire to be educated, Regret commits herself as a mail-order bride to a prosperous man in Hawaii, where girls are allowed to attend school. But when she arrives, she finds her new husband is a callous plantation worker with drinking and gambling problems. Soon, Regret (now known as Jin) and her fellow picture brides must discover their own ways to prosper in America and find that camaraderie and faith in themselves goes a long way. Brennert takes perhaps too much care in creating an encyclopedic portrait of Hawaii in the early 1900s, festooning the central narrative with trivia and cultural minutiae by the boatload. Luckily, Jin's story should be strong enough to pull readers through the clutter. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Virtually the only way for a young girl such as Jin to escape the poverty, isolation, and desperation of Korea in the early twentieth century was to advertise herself as a “picture bride,” eagerly available for marriage to a presumably young, honorable fellow countryman who had already fled to the burgeoning island paradise of Hawaii. Possessed of an insatiable desire for education and an innocent sense of adventure, Jin accepts Noh’s offer, only to realize that she’s traded one form of oppression for another when she suffers physical attacks from an alcoholic husband and the psychological abuse of a chauvinistic society. Spanning more than four decades, Jin’s plaintive yet intrepid tale of spirited courage and staunch resolve is as audacious as that of the vibrant island nation whose own polyglot heritage becomes increasingly endangered as it transitions from U.S. territory to fiftieth state. Brennert’s lush tale of ambition, sacrifice, and survival is immense in its dramatic scope yet intimate in its emotive detail. --Carol Haggas

Product Details

  • File Size: 781 KB
  • Print Length: 464 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1 Reprint edition (April 1, 2010)
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002LA0ADY
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #30,461 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
89 of 95 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Quest For A Better Life March 15, 2009
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Born in Korea in 1897, only daughter Regret learns from an early age what she can expect from life: servitude, enforced submission, and being "sold" to the highest bidder so she can move on to yet another household where the same existence will continue. Feeling certain there must be more to life than these grim prospects, Regret seeks an education and is aided in her quest by a kindly aunt. But a little education only makes Regret seek more, and when her father denies her any opportunity to become more than chattel, teenaged Regret decides to become a "picture bride" for a Korean man living in Hawai'i. Instantly shunned by her father, she boards a ship along with other young Korean women searching for more than what life in their native land will offer.

Honolulu weaves the true tales of life on Oahu in the early part of the twentieth century with Regret's new life as an unfortunately abused young bride. Regret (who renames herself Jin) is a fiercely independent, strong young woman who constantly strives to better her circumstances; she leaves her abusive husband, despite her careful Korean training to always submit, and uses her seamstress skills to earn some money. As with all lives, Jin's has its moments of love and loss; Brennert allows Jin to tell us of her woes, dreams, triumphs, and ideas herself, and he does an excellent job of using her voice to show how oppressed the working poor actually were on this island paradise. Brennert also peoples this novel with colorful characters as well as real people, and Jin often finds herself at or near the center of some of the gravest situations of the times.

Brennert's research is impeccable and this is a book that will pull you in from the first.
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55 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A terrific read February 17, 2009
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I can sum it up very quickly: This is a great book.

I am always impressed when a male writer tells a story from a female point of view and makes it work. In "Honolulu", Alan Brennart has done his considerable research proud, and woven a fictional story in with historical events to create a seamless, very readable tale of a Korean woman of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, and her many family connections, both by blood and friendship.

Jin is a dutiful child of an upper-middle-class Korean family in a small city, who enters the world as an unwanted daughter named "Regret" (because she wasn't a son). Bright and inquisitive by nature, she longs to go to school like her brothers, but to do so would bring shame on her family. By subterfuge and her sympathizing aunt's aid, she finds someone who teaches her how to read; but when her father learns of it, the result is not what Jin had hoped for. She languishes, frustrated, within the confines of her family's home, with only a young sister-in-law-in-training for company.

Her bid to break free comes when she learns of the "picture brides", essentially mail-order brides for Korean men in Hawaii. She overcomes her family's strenuous objections to her desire to become a "picture bride", and embarks upon her greatest adventure, in the company of four other Korean girls.

This is a book that was difficult to put down, as I travelled with Jin through the Hawaii of early non-Hawaiian occupation. The governing of the Hawaiian nation had been connived away from the Hawaiian royal family not many years before; the power was in the hands of a handful of white overlords and the sugar- and pineapple-companies, the labour provided by immigrant, primarily Asian, laborers.
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55 of 59 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Struggle in Paradise February 15, 2009
A Kid's Review
Alan Brennert's second novel, "Honolulu," continues to provide an entertaining history of the Hawaiian Islands, following his successful first novel, "Moloka'i." While "Moloka'i" had the entire plot line of the leper colony to fascinate readers, "Honolulu" surprises by focusing on the experiences of a Korean picture bride, named by her family, Regret.

Regret's childhood days in Korea and her relationship with a courtesan, who teaches her to read, are key to her character's desire to escape the drudgery of servitude expected of Korean girls.

Once she lands in Hawaii, she finds the streets are not paved with gold. She meets her new husband, endures horrors, and hardships, and continues undaunted to follow her dreams. She begins to use the name Jin.

Jin runs into a wide cast of real-life historical characters, but Brennert weaves them into his plot with emotion, and the reader comes away feeling enlightened as well as moved by the experiences. Hawaii, ever the land of immigrants, has not always been kind to newcomers. The strength of the locals, the growth of the "haole" thinking, and the ever-industrious spirit of the newcomers weave a charming, if sometimes overly expository, tale.

There are memorable lines throughout. My favorite is Jin's mother's explanation of grief: (Speaking of a quilt with black rectangles) "I added these on the day my mother died. . . There is no pattern to where I placed them, as there is no sense to be made of death. . .next to them the blues look bluer, the reds richer, the golds more brilliant. Withoutthem the cloth is pretty, but without character or contrast." Wisdom entwined in colorful language adds another reason to read this book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Enjoyed it from start to finish, but didn't want it to end.
Published 7 days ago by Toni Myers
5.0 out of 5 stars Brings Back Memories
I loved every second of reading this book. Could the reason be that I lived in Honolulu for 10 years? Loved the history and didn't want to put down the book.
Published 7 days ago by Carolyn E. Carlson
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Loved it!
Published 13 days ago by Kim Crawford
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Loved it...especially the audio version.
Published 21 days ago by yvonne626
4.0 out of 5 stars Another great novel by Brennert!
This is my 2nd book by Brennert and I loved it! I felt as though I was living the story in the book. Read more
Published 22 days ago by Julie
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read!
I gave up a lot of sleep, unable to put it down. I'd recommend this book and Molokai to anyone who wants an entertaining history of an amazing place.
Published 23 days ago by super cub
4.0 out of 5 stars Easy to read and painted a colorful picture of the ...
Based on other histories and historical fiction I've read of Hawaii, very accurate. Easy to read and painted a colorful picture of the era and people.
Published 26 days ago by Cinder
5.0 out of 5 stars Read it!
As a resident of Honolulu it was so easy to fall into this timeless tale and learn so much about a city I take for granted every day. Read more
Published 28 days ago by Angelique Maxwell
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Very good read. I recommend it.
Published 29 days ago by HELEN A. DARCY
4.0 out of 5 stars Honolulu was written in great detail educating the reader of the...
Honolulu was written in great detail educating the reader of the Korean culture and the adjustment to American/Hawaiian life.
Published 1 month ago by Teacher
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More About the Author

Alan Brennert is the author of the best-selling historical novels MOLOKA'I and HONOLULU, both favorites of reading groups across the country. MOLOKA'I was a 2012 "One Book, One San Diego" selection and HONOLULU was named one of the best books of 2009 by The Washington Post. He has also written contemporary novels (TIME AND CHANCE), short stories, teleplays, screenplays, and the libretto of a stage musical, WEIRD ROMANCE, with music by Alan Menken and lyrics by David Spencer. His work on the television series L.A. LAW earned him an Emmy Award in 1991, and his short story "Ma Qui" was honored with a Nebula Award in 1992.
PEOPLE Magazine says of his latest novel, PALISADES PARK: "Brennert writes his valentine to the New Jersey plaground of his youth in RAGTIME style, mixing fact and fiction. It's a memorable trip." Alan grew up in the towns of Cliffside Park, Palisades Park, and Edgewater, always living within a mile of the legendary Palisades Amusement Park, the setting for his novel. He calls it "a love letter to a cherished part of my childhood." A graduate of California State University at Long Beach and an alumnus of UCLA Film School, he currently lives in Los Angeles, California.

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Topic From this Discussion
No, R. Holman. I've been to Oahu many, many times and even though it wasn't during the timing of the book, it was a great depiction of Oahu. Your friend should definitely give it a chance. It was an excellent book and I'd love to hear what their thoughts on it are.
Mar 26, 2013 by Jennifer Garcia |  See all 6 posts
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