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Monday, March 26, 2018

Hawaiian Home Front Comes to Life in New WWII Novel

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

A Minnesota farm girl raised by stern, emotionless parents, Violet Iverson never dreamed she would someday end up living on the lush, exotic island of Hawaii.  When a whirlwind romance leads to a one-way ticket to the Big Island and a marriage proposal, she takes a chance and goes.  A decade later, warm, gentle Hawaii feels more like home than cold, grim Minnesota ever did.  Violet's been happy in Honoka'a, where she teaches at the high school and lives on its campus among friends who feel like family.  Recently, however, war has brought unwelcome change to the small town, including rationing, air-raid drills, and the unexplained disappearance of Violet's husband, Herman.  Although it's been a year since he vanished, no one can say whether Honoka'a High's former principal is alive or dead.  Violet thinks her daughter, 10-year-old Ella, knows something about her father's disappearance, but the girl won't admit to it no matter how hard Violet prods.   

When Honoka'a suddenly becomes overrun with soldiers training for a special mission, Violet and her friends decide to earn some extra cash by opening a pie stand near the military base.  With suspicion swirling in the sultry island air, the women soon find themselves accused of spying for the enemy.  Their Japanese friends are also being targeted.  Desperate to clear all of their good names, Violet relies on a handsome Marine to help her find out what really happened to her husband.  Exposing secrets is dangerous business, as she soon discovers.  With danger all around, can Violet solve a mystery, save her friends, and keep her daughter safe?  

I haven't read many World War II novels set entirely on American soil, so I was immediately interested when I heard about Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers by Sara Ackerman.  Inspired by the experiences of the author's grandparents—who lived in Honoka'a during World War II and hosted many soldiers in their home while the men were at Camp Tarawa before shipping out for Iwo Jima and Saipan—the novel offers a vivid setting and an intriguing story.  Ackerman's prose isn't quite as dynamic, as it's a bit stiff and more tell than show.  Her characters aren't all that memorable either, although they're likable enough.  Overall, though, I ended up liking Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers.  I didn't love it like I wanted to, but I enjoyed the read overall.

(Readalikes:  Um, I can't think of anything.  Can you?)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (a handful of F-bombs, plus milder expletives), violence, and sexual innuendo

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.


  1. Sounds like it didn’t get it quite right.

    1. The writing wasn't quite up to snuff, but I did enjoy the book overall.

  2. This is an interesting sounding book. Like you mentioned, books with this setting at the WWII time period are not that common or at least I don't know of them. I think I'll check and see if my library has this one.

    1. I've only read a few WWII novels set wholly in the U.S. and this is the only one I've read set in Hawaii. I do know of another -- UNDER THE BLOOD-RED SKY by Graham Salisbury. It was written by the father of a childhood friend of mine, but I haven't actually read it.

  3. I love WWII stories set in different places that gives the reader a different perspective of that time period.

    1. I agree! It's always good to get a new perspective on historical events.

  4. Too bad you didn't love it, but at least it kept your interest.

    1. It did and really, overall, I liked it. I just wanted to LOVE it and I didn't.

  5. It's such a great time period and setting, it's too bad that this one wasn't a better read.

    1. Right? Such a great time period and setting. It had a lot of unrealized potential.


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