In 1995 Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, on a rare family vacation, seven-year-old Nainoa Flores falls overboard a cruise ship into the Pacific Ocean. When Noa is gingerly delivered to his mother in the jaws of a shark, his story—and his family's story—becomes the stuff of legends.
Washburn’s depiction of [the sharks'] rescue is as vivid as it is splendid ... as in García Márquez’s work, the wonders and woes of being part of a community take center stage ... This may be his debut, but [Washburn] proves himself an old hand at dissecting the ways in which places—our connections to them, our disconnections from them—break us and remake us ... With prose that can be breathy and sweaty in one paragraph before gliding softly and tenderly into the next, this passionate writer cries out for us to see Hawaii in its totality: as a place of proud ancestors and gods and spirits, but also of crumbling families and hopelessness and poverty. Of mystery and beauty at every corner.
One of the primary delights of this novel is the singular voice that Washburn creates for each of his narrators. He writes with verve and laces their language with wit and Hawaiicisms ... This novel questions the idea of any savior ... the novel takes somber turns ... Washburn’s reverence and longing for the land and traditions of Hawaii is so strong you might catch homesickness even if you’re a haole (non-Hawaiian) who does strange things like butter your rice and leave your shoes on indoors. This novel graces the reader with the spirit of Hawaii, from its fragrant forests to its cultural traditions, and feels, despite its undercurrent of sadness, like a dose of tropical sun.
Recalling Faulkner's As I Lay Dying, each character in turn narrates portions of the story, an effective technique that offers a 360-degree perspective while keeping the story's secrets until ready to be revealed ... A more than noteworthy first foray into contemporary fiction by Hawaiian native Washburn.