This is Paradise by Kristiana Kahakauwila

Title: This is Paradise: Stories
Author: Kristiana Kahakauwila

Genre: Fiction (Short Stories / Contemporary / Hawaii / Tourism / Locals and Natives / Crime / Class Differences / Romantic Relationships)
Publisher/Publication Date: Hogarth (7/9/2013)
Source: TLC Book Tours

Rating: Liked to loved.
Did I finish?: I did, in a single night.
One-sentence summary: Six stories of contemporary Hawaii, the people who live there, and the culture of being Hawaiian.

Do I like the cover?: Adore it. Love the coloring, the font choices, the image of the stereotypical hula toy. Spot on.

I'm reminded of...: Jane Bowles, Tara Masih

First line: 1) Take a drink each time the haole pastor says "hell". from 'Thirty-Nine Rules for Making a Hawaiian Funeral Into a Drinking Game'

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow or buy, especially if you like the grittier side of vacationlands and alleged paradises.

Why did I get this book?: Love Hogarth -- everything they've released is gold.

Review: I adored this collection of six short stories set in Hawaii, covering the world of locals and tourists, the flashy veneer of hotels and beaches, the mix and clash of cultures and social classes.

Kahakauwila's Hawaii is not the one we see in the tourist brochures -- it's there, a little, if you squint -- but the world she writes about is both alien and familiar. Her characters are locals in a tourist town, some charmed by the flash and the out-of-towners, others dismissive.

I loved almost all of the stories. The blackly comedic 'Thirty-Nine Rules for Making a Hawaiian Funeral Into a Drinking Game' had me laughing out loud, it's numbered list of hypocritical clergy and commentary on education and coming home.
With your degree in English, your aunties expect you to deliver the most grammatically correct homage to your grandmother. Take this responsibility seriously. Your copyediting skills are all you have to offer your family. (p112)
The opening story, 'This is Paradise', could be an episode of Law & Order, perhaps, or a Greek tragedy. Our narrators are the young local girls who surf and disdain the tourists; the older women who are housekeepers and have maternal affection for those they see; the young professional women who returned to Hawaii to shape it's future. All three groups -- Greek choruses -- interact with a young white tourist who comes to a tragic end. The story is poetic without being obscure; dark without being agonizing.

Perhaps my favorite is 'Wanle', which I should have hated as it's about cock fighting. A young woman takes it up in honor of her father, who died mysteriously, perhaps due to a rival. Despite her lover's constant entreaties, she continues to raise roosters for fighting, and in her pursuit of revenge, her lies do more damage than she anticipates. It's a dark and bloody story, but not grotesque nor graphic for shock value. Wanle calculates the damages her roosters can take -- perhaps the damage she thinks her lover can take, that she can take -- and seeks out happiness, success. What results shocked and surprised me and made me cry. (Yeah, I got teary for someone who enjoys cockfighting!)

Kahakauwila's stories made me uncomfortable. I'm very often that tourist swanning about a beautiful locale, willfully (or not) ignoring the reality of those who live there.  Her stories made me teary as she wrote about belonging, family, identity, and the yearning we all have to belong and fit in.  I inhaled this collection in a single night and probably reread each story twice since then.  A knockout collection.

*** *** ***


I'm thrilled to offer a copy of This is Paradise to one lucky reader! To enter, fill out this brief form.

Open to US readers only, ends 8/2


  1. Damn! I should've snatched this up when it was offered to me.

    1. Soooooooooooooooooo good! And zippy. And good.

  2. Oh, what a wonderful review! I had so many of the same feelings and reactions about this book. The more I think about it, the stronger I think the collection really is. I also was deeply impressed with the cockfighting story. as a sociological phenomenon, it's interesting to compare the lives of fighting cocks to the lives of the genetically modified Tyson chickens. There's no doubt in my mind which animal leads the better life; and as their deaths are commensurately violent, I'm not sure why people arent as bothered by farm factories as they are cockfighting....

    1. Yes -- as time goes it really grows on me -- I get more and more hyper about it.

      Also, with this -- I'm not sure why people arent as bothered by farm factories as they are cockfighting... -- you just BLEW MY MIND. So true! It's so messed up -- and such a spot on observation. Must mull...

  3. Well well, doesn't this sound like a gem!? I'll keep my eyes open for this one!!

  4. I have heard so many good things about this one, it looks great and I would love to read it! I am glad you liked it!

  5. Fantastic review -- and what find! Short stories are just my speed at the moment -- I'm having an issue with biblio-commitment :) I am going to look for this.

    1. They're super escapist too -- easy to get lost in but short enough that you can come up without struggling. Can't wai tto see what you think of them!

  6. I do love to read about the grittier side of things so this sounds marvelous to me!

  7. Sounds good. I was thinking about my travelling self as I read this, even your review than the whole book made me think. Even though we know it's different it's hard not to have rose-tinted glasses when you're somewhere new.

    1. It's true -- and I'm always taken by a good landscape -- I want to pretend there's no class issues, poverty, etc. at so many of these tourist locations.

  8. I have never read anything set in Hawaii, I would love to read this one just because it is something I would not usually read. I love to try something different every once in a while!

  9. This one is worth deviating for -- I think you'll be satisfied!

  10. Sounds like a good one! I have too many books but can't resist a giveaway!

  11. I am often that oblivious tourist as well, so this book would certainly be an eyeopener for me!

    Thanks for being on the tour Audra.


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