Moloka’i was such a great story that I couldn’t wait to read Alan Brennert’s second book, Honolulu. Obviously the story takes place in Hawai’i, but it begins in Korea at the turn of the century. At the time, Korean parents did not view the birth of a daughter as something to celebrate, and many gave their daughters names which expressed their personal feelings about having a daughter rather than a son. The main character’s parents named her Regret, and like all Korean girls and women, she spent her days in the inner rooms of the house, rarely seeing the outside except to do laundry or go to the market.
When she was 14, Regret and her friend sailed to Hawaii as picture brides to marry Korean men. They and the other picture brides with whom they traveled were surprised to find that their new husbands were not the successful businessmen they were led to believe, but hard laborers. Regret dealt with her husband’s abusive behavior until she reached her breaking point, and left the farms where they lived to go to Honolulu and start a new life.
I have heard reviews of Honolulu in which readers thought it was nowhere near as good as Moloka’i, and while I did enjoy Moloka’i more, I still found Honolulu to be a great book. Again, I learned so much about the history of Hawaii and even Korea, and I came to care about the characters and their experiences. I don’t remember feeling that this book dragged at any point, and even though it’s somewhat of a serious book (aka not chick lit), I thought it was still a quick read; it took me two days at the beach to finish it, and I was sorry to be done.