There’s Nothing Better Than Being in Hawaii, Reading “Hawaii”

There’s Nothing Better Than Being in Hawaii, Reading “Hawaii”

Last month I had the good fortune of participating in some military training in Hawaii. Of all the places where training happens, Hawaii is one of the best locations– except when you’ve got demanding work hours and all there’s time for is work, PT, dinner, sleep, repeat. The thought crossed my mind wishing I was in some other less exciting location, where the FOMO wouldn’t be so bad. Silly me!

I had a day and a half at the end to catch up on sight seeing which was great. And through it all, “Hawaii“, kept me company.

James Michener’s Hawaii is a sweeping epic. The audible clocks in at 54 hours (!), but if you set the narration speed to 1.2x you can get that down to 34 hours (!). The story is set against the backdrop of the Hawaiian Islands where Michener weaves together the lives of various characters spanning centuries and generations. It’s really neat because he showcases the tumultuous history and cultural complexity of Hawaii through the entire lifetime of key characters who all link together, from the Polynesian voyagers from Bora Bora who first settled on islands, to the arrival of European explorers and missionaries, to the arrival of Chinese and Japanese immigrants who worked the plantations, to their offspring who served and died in WWII and held for public offices.

The book left a lasting impression on me and helped me appreciate Hawaii when I visited. While I was there and would look around and notice the makeup of the Americans who live there, the book helped me see that Hawaii is a unique representation of what it means to be American; Hawaii is a state made up of many immigrants. The other big idea I walked away with was this overarching theme of legacy. The book covers maybe four generations covering five big families that, over years, built Hawaii as it is today. And although “Hawaii” is fiction, many of the characters and events are based in historical facts (Michener was a meticulous researcher). A Google search for the fictional reverand ‘Abner Hale’ will turn up a Wikipedia article for the real-life Hiram Bingham, who was the actual missionary to bring Christianity to Hawaii. His progeny for the next four generations would attend Yale University and hold major public offices.

If you want to read “Hawaii”, the Audible version is your friend. And if you go to Hawaii, Michener’s book is a good companion.

There was a book-to-movie adaptation staring Julie Andrews which I will check out soon.