Moloka’i, the story of a girl in a leper colony, by Alan Brennert, is one of my favorite books. So I thought it would be worth checking out Brennert’s other Hawaii novel, Honolulu.
We meet Regret, a young Korean girl at the turn of the (twentieth) century. She longs to venture outside of her culture’s confines, dreams of going to school, and secretly learns to read. But when her strict Confucian father discovers her literacy, he’s furious. And when Regret decides to leave Korea for Hawaii as a picture bride, her father disowns her.
With her fellow picture brides, Regret excitedly leaves her home country, only to find that her husband is not the young and wealthy man she was promised, but an older man living in an impoverished labor camp. Worse, he proves to have a severe gambling and drinking problem. But not until he begins to abuse her does Regret finally flee for Honolulu. Regret, now going by the name Jin, eventually finds new friendships, love, and fosters a family and career of her own. Towards the end, the novel contained a few key touching scenes, when Jin returns to Korea to visit an old friend. A culturally and historically educational read.