This Is Paradise: Stories – Book Review and Giveaway

ThisIsParadiseWe look at each other, and we feel the heat rising in our faces. Our families are barely affording a life here, the land is being eaten away by developers, the old sugar companies still control water rights. Not only does paradise no longer belong to us, but we have to watch foreigners destroy it. – from This is Paradise –

A tourist to Hawaii believes she has arrived in paradise, only to find a much darker future there. A daughter seeks retribution for her father by pitting her fighting cocks against an adversary, only to discover there is a very high price to pay for revenge. The life of a stray dog reveals the deep fissures between a man and a woman. A daughter ponders the choices her father makes and wonders, if there is another family, does he love me less? A son sits at the bedside of his dying father and wishes to reveal his deepest secret, but will that heal the distance between them, or widen the gap?

These are just some of the characters who people the stories in Kristiana Kahakauwila’s beautiful collection which examines the gap between those who consider themselves “locals” and those who are visitors to a place; the divides within family; the secrets we keep from ourselves and those we love; the search for personal identity; and the definition of home and family. Kahakauwila has a deep understanding of what it means to be of a place, to cling to our pasts while trying to forge our futures, and the feeling of wanting to cling to family while being true to oneself.

My favorite story of the collection was The Old Paniolo Way. Pilipo grew up in Hawaii and revered his father, a man who ran a ranch and spoke pidgin, a man who had earned the respect of those around him. But Pili has left Hawaii, is now living in San Francisco where he feels more accepted for who he is…and who he is, is a gay man who has not yet come out to his family. When he returns to his family home, he comes to be with his dying father, Harrison, and reconnect with his sister, Maile. He longs to reveal himself, finally, to his family and, somehow, to bridge the gap which has formed between them.

Now, as his father was dying, Pili was haunted by the desire to re-create the intimacy he and Harrison had once shared. Pili wondered what might bring them back to that kind of closeness, and he began to think that if he could just come out to his dad – and Maile, too – thenperhaps he would regain the relationships he missed. In sand Francisco, his coming out – along with the honesty and self-realization that it required of him – was cheered and celebrated among his friends, and championed without hesitation. But in Hawai’i, Pili was unsure of his desires and of himself. – from The Old Paniolo Way.

This story about the love between a father and son and the isolation that one feels when he or she cannot be their authentic self, touched me deeply. It was in this story where Kahakauwila’s talent fully shone for me. But in all her stories in this collection, Kahakauwila infuses an empathy and authenticity which makes her work ring true and real.

This is Paradise: Stories is a haunting, beautifully crafted collection from a penetrating and talented new voice in fiction. Kahakauwila writes with a finely honed and observant point of view. Her characters jump from the pages, real and fully formed. Readers who are new to short fiction will find this collection accessible and poetic.

Highly recommended.


tlclogoRead more reviews of this book by visiting the TLC Book Tours page.


KRISTIANA KAHAKAUWILA, a native Hawaiian, was raised in Southern California. She earned a master’s in fine arts from the University of Michigan and a bachelor’s degree in comparative literature from Princeton University. She has worked as a writer and editor for Wine SpectatorCigar Aficionado, and Highlights for Children magazines and taught English at Chaminade University in Honolulu. She is an assistant professor of creative writing at Western Washington University.

FTC Disclosure: Many thanks to Hogarth and TLC Book Tours for providing me with this book for review on my blog as part of a book tour.


  • Contest open from July 23 – July 30, 2013 through 5: 00 pm (PST)
  • US mailing addresses only.
  • Please leave ONE comment on this post being sure to tell me you would like to be entered in the contest (if you just leave a comment, but don’t tell me you want to be entered, I will assume you do NOT want to be entered).
  • One winner will be randomly selected after 5:00 pm PST on July 30th and their name announced here on my blog; I will also send an email to the winner who will have five (5) days to respond to that email with their snail mail address or I will choose another winner.


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    • anne on July 23, 2013 at 04:35

    Thanks for this lovely giveaway.

  1. This is the second review I’ve read of this book and both of them have made me want to read it. Thanks for the giveaway!

    • Jenna Evans on July 23, 2013 at 09:00

    I have heard so many good reviews of this book, it’s on my TBR now! I’d love to be in the giveaway, thanks!

    • Marie on July 23, 2013 at 14:04

    This one looks great! I’ve been meaning to start reading short stories. Please enter me 🙂

    • Allie on July 24, 2013 at 06:37

    I would love to read this. I love Hawaii

  2. Wendy, what a spectacular review! I’m thrilled you enjoyed the book (it’s one of my favorite reads this year). Thank you so much for being on the tour!

    • Kerry on July 25, 2013 at 10:43

    Looks like a great read! Please enter me in the giveaway. 🙂

    • Judy B on July 26, 2013 at 11:28

    I love short story collections, please enter me in the contest.

    ps, loved your churn dash quilt in the previous post!

    • susan on July 28, 2013 at 13:58

    I like stories that touch on Hawaii — would like to read this one, please enter me in the giveaway. thanks.

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