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Saturday, June 20, 2020

Hawaiian World War II Novel Offers Rich, Atmospheric Setting and Intriguing (Enough) Tale

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

When Lana Hitchcock learns her estranged father is dying, she rushes from Oahu to her hometown of Hilo on the Big Island.  Too late to make amends, she's mourning her loss at her childhood home when Pearl Harbor is attacked.  Lana is stunned by the news; even more shocking is her dad's apparent prediction of the war reaching Hawaii's shores.  According to a note he left her, Lana's father built a safe house up in the mountains near an active volcano.  When the police begin rounding up "suspicious" persons for questioning, Lana knows she must act to save her dad's beloved neighbors.  Into her car, she piles two German girls whose parents have been detained, an elderly Japanese man, his adopted teenage son, the girls' oversized dog, two nene geese, and all the food she can stack in among them.  With her heart banging in her chest, she flees to the secret house where she will hide her wards for the duration.  

Numerous surprises await the group in Volcano, including an unfinished house with a secret room, wild horses roaming the property, a nearby military camp turned into internment housing, and the handsome soldier whose attentions to Lana are dangerous for them all.  Can Lana keep the people in her care safe in spite of dwindling rations and soldiers crawling all over Volcano?  Will they be killed outright by Japanese soldiers?  Or will the lot of them be imprisoned by their own countrymen?  With danger around every corner, will Lana lose everything that's important to her?

I've read tons of World War II novels, but very few that focus on life in Hawaii after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.  Sara Ackerman, who was born and raised in the islands, has written several, including her newest, Red Sky Over Hawaii.  There's a lot to love about this book, from its rich, atmospheric setting, to its dip into fascinating Hawaiian folklore, to its light sprinkling of magical realism.  The fact that it's a clean read filled with likable characters is also a plus.  However, although Ackerman's story people are mostly good and honorable, they're not super rounded or fleshed-out.  I didn't feel like I really knew Lana or her leading man, which made it difficult to detect any chemistry between the two.  Similarly, the book's plot is rather lackadaisical.  Since Lana and company are basically hiding out, hoping not to get caught, not a lot happens to them.  There is never a point in their tale when the reader really has to worry about their well-being, which makes their story a little dull.  Despite these irritants, overall I enjoyed Red Sky Over Hawaii.  I didn't love the book like I wanted to, but I did like it.


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for brief, mild language (no F-bombs), violence, and mild innuendo

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of Red Sky Over Hawaii from the generous folks at Harlequin in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!


  1. I like the premise of this book! Like you, I haven't read much about the war in Hawai'i and I like the idea of someone doing good in a terrible time.

  2. Focusing this one on Hawaii in the aftermath of the attack is really smart. There are countless WWII books, but none that I've heard of with this perspective.

  3. I have another book by this author on my TBR. The premise of this one does sound very interesting! Pity it wasn't as engaging as it could be.

  4. The book and author are new to me. I appreciated the review as even the subject and setting especially was different to the usual ones.

  5. Sounds like the setting is the best part of this book! :)

  6. I consider myself pretty much burned out on WWII fiction right now, but this one sounds a bit different from the run-of-the-mill novels set in Germany or England. Does sound like it could have used a little more action, but still sounds promising.

  7. I was hoping for great things with this book. I am hoping to start it on the weekend, so I am prepared now. Glad it was still a good story despite the disappointing aspects.


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