Growing up in Korea in the early 1900s, Regret longs to escape her future as an uneducated subservient wife and daughter-in-law. She finds a way out of this life by becoming a "picture bride" to a man in far-away Hawai'i. But when she and the other brides arrive in their new home, they quickly learn that their new husbands are not the prosperous, young men they expected.
Honolulu by Alan Brennert is the story of Regret, who renames herself Jin, and her life in Hawai'i throughout the first half of the 20th century. It's also a story of immigration to the islands, particularly by the Koreans and Japanese at that time, and the struggles they faced in this new land. Jin and her fellow brides live a very different life than they would have lived in Korea. They have much more freedom and opportunity, but it certainly isn't paradise. They must work hard and overcome many obstacles to become successful.
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. It's very long and encompasses several decades, but Jin's life and the historical details about the culture in Honolulu kept me interested throughout. I had read Brennert's Moloka'i for book club back in 2009, and soon after got a copy of Honolulu, but it has taken me five years to pull it off my shelf! I'm glad I did.
If you like historical fiction, I highly recommend Honolulu. It is a wonderful combination of 20th century history and a compelling story of one woman's life. It would make an excellent book club choice as well.
My rating: 5/5
Reading group guide and discussion questions for Honolulu
Read my review of Moloka'i by Alan Brennert
This review was written based on a copy of Honolulu that I received from Paperback Swap.