Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Red Sky Over Hawaii

Title:  Red Sky Over Hawaii
Author:  Sara Ackerman
Publication Information:  MIRA. 2020. 352 pages.
ISBN:  0778309673 / 978-0778309673

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley and the Summer 2020 Historical Fiction Blog Tours from Harlequin Trade Publishing free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "when I close my eyes, I still see the fiery glow of lava in Halema'uma'u crater."

Favorite Quote:  "People get knocked off their path all the time. Important thing is you know your Hõk˜upa'a, your North Star, and you bring yourself back on course. The sooner the better."

1941. Hawaii. Pearl Harbor. US enters WWII. This is the history against which this book is set. Some of the history used in the book...

The Kilauea Military Camp was originally built as a rest and relaxation facility for military members and their families. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the facility was used as an interment camp for people of Japanese and German descent. People were rounded up and held on suspicion simply for their ethnic heritage. Families were torn apart, and lives were destroyed.

In the 1940s, Mauna Loa erupted. The army bombed the lava flow to prevent it from reaching the city of Hilo. Per the author's note, the timeline has been changed somewhat to match the timing of the story, but it did occur. According to recent news stories, a hiker discovered unexploded bombs near the crater earlier this year.

The Ãinahou Ranch, now on the National Register of Historic Places, is a home built in what is now Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Supposedly, one of the originals purposes of the home was to provide a hideout or haven against a Japanese invasion.

Now the story....

Lana Hitchcock arrives back on the Big Island to see her father. They have been estranged for many years.  Unfortunately, nothing goes as Lana envisions. Her father passes away before her arrival. She meets her neighbors who are of German heritage reconnects with one of her father's old friends, who is of Japanese heritage. The attack on Pearl Harbor happens. To protect her old and new friends, Lana runs with them to a home that her father built, apparently for this very purpose.

The rest of the book is about what happens to Lana and her friends in this new home. Although the book is based on the events of the war, the war itself and the resulting internments fade somewhat into the background of this story. I wish more had been described about the history, but this book goes in a different direction.

For one, a love story develops and takes center stage. The love story I could do without, but that part of the book does raise the question of trust in a relationship and the balance between duty and the responsibility to do the right thing. The book description is very clear that romance is an element of the story. I do, however, wish that the history of internment and its impact on the families had been developed further. The ending too wraps it up neatly without looking at the impact beyond.

The completely unexpected part of this story is what the description refers to as "the magic on the volcano." That descriptor is not a figure of speech. A significant portion of this book is magical realism and the presence of certain powers in a child, in an adult, and in the environment itself. Again, this aspect of the story looms larger than the story of war that I was expecting. Perhaps, it is about the power of belief  and its ability to sustain us through tough time? Perhaps, that is what I need to believe.

That being said, the background of the war against the beautiful, haunting environment of the Hawaii volcanoes creates a readable story of what happens when good people do the right thing and stand together and for each other. That is a lesson well worth reiterating again and again.

Red Sky Over Hawaii
Blog Tour

Author: Sara Ackerman
Publication Date: June 9, 2020
Publisher:  MIRA Books

Author Bio:
Sara Ackerman is the USA Today bestselling author of The Lieutenant's Nurse and Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers. Born and raised in Hawaii, she studied journalism and earned graduate degrees in psychology and Chinese medicine. She blames Hawaii for her addiction to writing, and sees no end to its untapped stories. When she's not writing or teaching, you'll find her in the mountains or in the ocean. She currently lives on the Big Island with her boyfriend and a houseful of bossy animals. Find out more about Sara and her books at www.ackermanbooks.com and follow her on Instagram @saraackermanbooks and on FB @ackermanbooks.

Book Summary:
For fans of Chanel Cleeton and Beatriz Williams, RED SKY OVER HAWAII is historical women's fiction set in the islands during WWII. It's the story of a woman who has to put her safety and her heart on the line when she becomes the unexpected guardian of a misfit group and decides to hide with them in a secret home in the forest on Kilauea Volcano.

The attack on Pearl Harbor changes everything for Lana Hitchcock. Arriving home on the Big Island too late to reconcile with her estranged father, all she can do is untangle the clues of his legacy, which lead to a secret property in the forest on Kilauea Volcano. America has been drawn into WWII, and amid rumors of impending invasion, the army places the islands under martial law. When they start taking away neighbors as possible sympathizers, Lana finds herself suddenly guardian to two girls, as well as accomplice to an old family friend who is Japanese, along with his son. In a heartbeat, she makes the decision to go into hiding with them all.

The hideaway house is not what Lana expected, revealing its secrets slowly, and things become even more complicated by the interest of Major Grant Bailey, a soldier from the nearby internment camp. Lana is drawn to him, too, but needs to protect her little group. With a little help from the magic on the volcano, Lana finds she can open her bruised heart to the children--and maybe to Grant.

A lush and evocative novel about doing what is right against the odds, following your heart, and what makes a family.

Author Q&A:

Q: Would you tell us what inspired you to write Red Sky Over Hawaii?
A: I’ll start with saying that Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (the setting) is one of my favorite places. There is a vast and unearthly beauty there, with a unique rainforest and ecosystem. I spend a lot of time exploring the backcountry and lava flows in the area. One day several years ago, I came upon a rustic old house tucked away in a remote part of the park. You would never even know it’s there. Needless to say, I was intrigued. When I dug deeper and found the house was originally built as a hideaway house in 1941 in case of a Japanese invasion, I knew I had to write a book about it someday. A year or so later, I met a woman who told me about her friend’s mother, who had been a little girl during the attack on Pearl Harbor and how her parents had been taken away and held for over a year by the FBI because they were German. I tracked down that story, which broke my heart, and decided I would merge the two and loosely base my story on them. Also, I’ve always been fascinated at how ordinary people band together during crises, and at the human capacity for resilience, so I wanted to explore this in my novel.

Q: Which character in this novel do you most relate to and why?
A: I would have to say Lana, though Coco might come in a close second. Lana was at one of those difficult crossroads in life, where everything seems to fall apart at once. Though the events of her life are different than mine, I’ve been through these periods where everything looks bleak and you have to pull it together just to survive.

Q: What challenged you the most while writing this story?
A: In terms of life, I had recently lost my father, and so writing about Lana’s father Jack and the house felt very parallel (my father was an architect who built his own house) to my own experience. It was a very emotional book for me to write, and yet I think it also helped me to work through my own grief. In terms of the writing, I didn’t have a whole lot to go on in terms of books or resources of what it was like at Volcano during the war. I’d had the opposite problem with The Lieutenant’s Nurse, since that was about Pearl Harbor. Luckily, I found one publication put out by the National Parks Service that saved me. I also had a few kupuna (elders) here that shared their memories with me. We are running out of living references from WWII, so I feel honored to get to talk story with them.

Q: You must do a lot of research for your writing. What was something interesting you learned while compiling research for this book?

A: When I set out to write it, I knew about the detainment camp at KMC (Kilauea Military Camp) but I had no idea that there was so much military activity up there. In early 1942 the Army 27th Infantry Division set up headquarters there and patrolled coastlines and trained for  another anticipated invasion. When researching, there are always so many unexpected things that turn up. I love it!

Facebook: @ackermanbooks
Twitter: @AckermanBooks
Instagram: @saraackermanbooks

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