Why Join?

  • Add New Books

  • Write a Review

  • Backpack Reading Lists

  • Newsletter Updates

Join Now

Ten Great Books set in HAWAII

3rd September 2021

Hawaii is the latest location for our ‘Ten Great Books Set In…’ series. Ten great books set in Hawaii. Hawaii is a state in the Western United States located in the Pacific Ocean about 2,000 miles from the U.S. mainland. It is the only state outside North America, the only state that is an archipelago, and the only state in the tropics. It is a very popular holiday destination.

‘Mohala i ka wai ka maka o ka pua’ – ‘unfolded by the water are the faces of the flowers’ –  Hawaiian proverb

Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers by Sara Ackerman

Hawaii, 1944. The Pacific battles of World War II continue to threaten American soil, and on the home front, the bonds of friendship and the strength of love are tested.

Violet Iverson and her young daughter, Ella, are piecing their lives together one year after the disappearance of her husband. As rumors swirl and questions about his loyalties surface, Violet believes Ella knows something. But Ella is stubbornly silent. Something—or someone—has scared her. And with the island overrun by troops training for a secret mission, tension and suspicion between neighbors is rising.

Violet bands together with her close friends to get through the difficult days. To support themselves, they open a pie stand near the military base, offering the soldiers a little homemade comfort. Try as she might, Violet can’t ignore her attraction to the brash marine who comes to her aid when the women are accused of spying. Desperate to discover the truth behind what happened to her husband, while keeping her friends and daughter safe, Violet is torn by guilt, fear and longing as she faces losing everything. Again.

A Time in Paradise by T A Garcia

Jade Gonzalez has always been fascinated with Hawaii and its beautiful beaches, jungle waterfalls, volcanoes, and elaborate flower lei. Even the islands’ eclectic cultural mix seems perfect to a girl of Mexican-Asian heritage.

A winter vacation to the islands to visit her mother’s old college friend Leilani gets really interesting when Jade meets Leilani’s cute son, Kai. Together, the two explore the legend of the Hidden Falls, a magical waterfall with the power to grant one’s heart’s desire. During the hike, Kai is injured and, on her way to get help, Jade takes a bad fall, only to wake up in 1957. The waterfall, it seems, really is magic.

In the past, Jade meets handsome Pono Kaluhiwa, who immediately falls for the girl from the future. Trouble is, Jade already has feelings for Kai and wants to get back to her own time. Besides, she knows what the future holds for Pono—staying with him could change his destiny and hers. Even so, Jade’s tempted to stay. Pono’s hard to deny.

Jade has a decision to make. Does she (and can she) go back to her own time, or should she stay with Pono, changing the future forever? Either way, someone’s heart is going to break. The question is, will it be Pono’s, Kai’s, or Jade’s?

Hawaii by James Michener

Pulitzer Prize-winning author James A. Michener brings Hawaii’s epic history vividly to life in a classic saga that has captivated readers since its initial publication in 1959. As the volcanic Hawaiian Islands sprout from the ocean floor, the land remains untouched for centuries-until, little more than a thousand years ago, Polynesian seafarers make the perilous journey across the Pacific, flourishing in this tropical paradise according to their ancient traditions. Then, in the early nineteenth century, American missionaries arrive, bringing with them a new creed and a new way of life. Based on exhaustive research and told in Michener’s immersive prose, Hawaii is the story of disparate peoples struggling to keep their identity, live in harmony, and, ultimately, join together.

Hotel Honolulu by Paul Theroux

Newly married and having recently taken over the management of a hotel in Honolulu, a former writer is drawn into the chaotic lives of his guests and into the distinctive customs and rhythms of the distant island. As witness to the many contrasting, and often ribald, chronicles of the hotel’s characters, he ultimately finds personal salvation through returning to writing once again. The result is this novel in eighty distinct episodes, a Chaucerian sequence of strange pilgrims and just-as-strange islanders confronting each other, and their fate, in the rooms of the seedy hotel.

This is Paradise by Kristiana Kahakauwila

In a stunning collection that announces the arrival of an incredible talent, Kristiana Kahakauwila travels the islands of Hawai’i, making the fabled place her own. Exploring the deep tensions between local and tourist, tradition and expectation, façade and authentic self, This Is Paradise provides an unforgettable portrait of life as it’s truly being lived on Maui, Oahu, Kaua’i and the Big Island.

In the gut-punch of “Wanle,” a beautiful and tough young woman wants nothing more than to follow in her father’s footsteps as a legendary cockfighter. With striking versatility, the title story employs a chorus of voices-the women of Waikiki-to tell the tale of a young tourist drawn to the darker side of the city’s nightlife. “The Old Paniolo Way” limns the difficult nature of legacy and inheritance when a patriarch tries to settle the affairs of his farm before his death.

Exquisitely written and bursting with sharply observed detail, Kahakauwila’s stories remind us of the powerful desire to belong, to put down roots, and to have a place to call home.

Freefall by Kristen Heitzmann

When a young woman stumbles out of the Hanalei Mountains on the island of Kauai with no memory of who she is or how she got there, Cameron Pierce reluctantly agrees to investigate the mysterious circumstances surrounding her arrival. As pieces begin to fall into place, he suspects her injuries were no accident, but he’s far from convinced she’s an innocent victim. And there’s that nagging feeling he’s seen her somewhere before….
Now known as Jade, the woman begins to recall fragments of what led her to this place, and she realizes the danger isn’t over. Jade and the cynical Hawaiian investigator attempt to reconstruct the threads of her identity, but the stakes are far higher than either expected.

Sleeping Beauties by Susanna Moore

Susanna Moore’s novel is set in Hawaii whose shimmering beauty and meloncholy traditions are at once seductive and dangerously hard to leave. Or so they prove for Clio, a thirteen year-old runaway who is raised by her eccentric aunt Emma, a collector of legends, myths, and rites of their native island. Emma teaches Clio what it means to swim out of the currents of time, to exchange her small past for a grand one. But when that same past begins to take on a crushing weight, Clio on impulse marries a well-known Hollywood actor, providing her with the promise of escape from her family and the entanglements of island life.

Wai-nani by Linda Ballou

Voice from Ancient Hawaii is a meticulously researched account of the Hawaiian Islands around the time of Captain James Cook. The major theme of the novel is the dismantling of the social hierarchal system based on kapu (taboo) that had been brought to the Islands by the Tahitians years before.
This is the story of the first High Chiefess of Hawaii,and the fierce, great warrior and magnificient ruler , Makaha, who unified the Hawaiian islands in the late 18th Century.

As Mia untangles the passions and betrayals of the past, everything she thought she knew is turned upside down. Can she heal the wounds of the past, and face the truth of her own heart?

Daughter of Moloka’i by Alan Brennert

Alan Brennert’s beloved novel Moloka’i, currently has over 600,000 copies in print. This companion tale tells the story of Ruth, the daughter that Rachel Kalama—quarantined for most of her life at the isolated leprosy settlement of Kalaupapa—was forced to give up at birth.

The book follows young Ruth from her arrival at the Kapi’olani Home for Girls in Honolulu, to her adoption by a Japanese couple who raise her on a strawberry and grape farm in California, her marriage and unjust internment at Manzanar Relocation Camp during World War II—and then, after the war, to the life-altering day when she receives a letter from a woman who says she is Ruth’s birth mother, Rachel.

Daughter of Moloka’i expands upon Ruth and Rachel’s 22-year relationship, only hinted at in Moloka’i. It’s a richly emotional tale of two women—different in some ways, similar in others—who never expected to meet, much less come to love, one another. And for Ruth it is a story of discovery, the unfolding of a past she knew nothing about. Told in vivid, evocative prose that conjures up the beauty and history of both Hawaiian and Japanese cultures, it’s the powerful and poignant tale that readers of Moloka’i have been awaiting for fifteen years.

Mai Tai Butterfly by JoAnn Bassett

Slicing open the afternoon mail rips apart Nola Stevens’ secure- but tedious-life in Seattle. Twenty-three years ago, she moved from her father’s house to her husband’s house, barely pausing to attend her high school graduation. But now her marriage is over. Her ex-husband’s moved on to something else entirely-leaving Nola parked on her friend Malia’s sofa bed until further notice. When Malia’s summoned home to Maui for her father’s seventy-fifth birthday luau, she persuades Nola to come along. Hawaii astounds her-non-stop sunshine, aloha spirit, and fresh fruit cheaper than canned. And then there’s the half-naked sculptor who keeps sneaking up behind her.

“Mai Tai Butterfly” is a three-fold love story: a love of place, of a man, and the love that makes the other two possible. Living aloha is the best revenge.

 

What a brilliant selection of books there is in Hawaii! If you have any to add to the list, please do so in the Comments below…

Tony for the TripFiction team

Join Team TripFiction on Social Media:

Twitter (@TripFiction), Facebook (@TripFiction.Literarywanderlust), YouTube (TripFiction #Literarywanderlust), Instagram (@TripFiction) and Pinterest (@TripFiction)

Subscribe to future blog posts

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comments

  1. User: Judith Works

    Posted on: 01/10/2021 at 3:32 pm

    I especially liked Color of Air by Gail Tsukyama. Set on the Big Island.

    Comment

Enter the 2021TripFiction 'Sense of Place' Creative Writing Competition!

A story in which the location plays as important a role as the rest of your words.

2,500 word maximum, 750 word minimum

Judges include Victoria Hislop and Rosanna Ley

First Prize of £1,000 / US$1,350

Prizes total £1,750 / US$2,362 

Winning entry published on TripFiction site and publicised on Social Media

Entries close 6th November 2021