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Sharks in the Time of Saviors

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In 1995 Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, on a rare family vacation, seven-year-old Nainoa Flores falls overboard a cruise ship into the Pacific Ocean. When a shiver of sharks appears in the water, everyone fears for the worst. But instead, Noa is gingerly delivered to his mother in the jaws of a shark, marking his story as the stuff of legends. Nainoa's family, struggling amidst the co In 1995 Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, on a rare family vacation, seven-year-old Nainoa Flores falls overboard a cruise ship into the Pacific Ocean. When a shiver of sharks appears in the water, everyone fears for the worst. But instead, Noa is gingerly delivered to his mother in the jaws of a shark, marking his story as the stuff of legends. Nainoa's family, struggling amidst the collapse of the sugarcane industry, hails his rescue as a sign of favor from ancient Hawaiian gods - a belief that appears validated after he exhibits puzzling new abilities. But as time passes, this supposed divine favor begins to drive the family apart: Nainoa, working now as a paramedic on the streets of Portland, struggles to fathom the full measure of his expanding abilities; further north in Washington, his older brother Dean hurtles into the world of elite college athletics, obsessed with wealth and fame; while in California, risk-obsessed younger sister Kaui navigates an unforgiving academic workload in an attempt to forge her independence from the family's legacy. When supernatural events revisit the Flores family in Hawaii - with tragic consequences - they are all forced to reckon with the bonds of family, the meaning of heritage, and the cost of survival.


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In 1995 Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, on a rare family vacation, seven-year-old Nainoa Flores falls overboard a cruise ship into the Pacific Ocean. When a shiver of sharks appears in the water, everyone fears for the worst. But instead, Noa is gingerly delivered to his mother in the jaws of a shark, marking his story as the stuff of legends. Nainoa's family, struggling amidst the co In 1995 Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, on a rare family vacation, seven-year-old Nainoa Flores falls overboard a cruise ship into the Pacific Ocean. When a shiver of sharks appears in the water, everyone fears for the worst. But instead, Noa is gingerly delivered to his mother in the jaws of a shark, marking his story as the stuff of legends. Nainoa's family, struggling amidst the collapse of the sugarcane industry, hails his rescue as a sign of favor from ancient Hawaiian gods - a belief that appears validated after he exhibits puzzling new abilities. But as time passes, this supposed divine favor begins to drive the family apart: Nainoa, working now as a paramedic on the streets of Portland, struggles to fathom the full measure of his expanding abilities; further north in Washington, his older brother Dean hurtles into the world of elite college athletics, obsessed with wealth and fame; while in California, risk-obsessed younger sister Kaui navigates an unforgiving academic workload in an attempt to forge her independence from the family's legacy. When supernatural events revisit the Flores family in Hawaii - with tragic consequences - they are all forced to reckon with the bonds of family, the meaning of heritage, and the cost of survival.

30 review for Sharks in the Time of Saviors

  1. 4 out of 5

    karen

    How long was I stupid enough to believe we were indestructible? But that's the problem with the present, it's never the thing you're holding, only the thing you're watching, later, from a distance so great the memory might as well be a spill of stars outside a windshield at twilight i put off reading this until shark week, only to discover that the shark content in this book is MINIMAL. however, this FAMILY, this STORY—i was as unprepared for what this book actually was as i was for how damn good How long was I stupid enough to believe we were indestructible? But that's the problem with the present, it's never the thing you're holding, only the thing you're watching, later, from a distance so great the memory might as well be a spill of stars outside a windshield at twilight i put off reading this until shark week, only to discover that the shark content in this book is MINIMAL. however, this FAMILY, this STORY—i was as unprepared for what this book actually was as i was for how damn good it would be. i'm not going to say too much, because every time i thought i knew where the story was headed, i was wrong, and that was one of my favorite things about it—its sheer unpredictability. it's a fourteen-year, five-POV family saga about history and destiny and homeland and diaspora, with a chef's kiss of magic and a teeny tiny sharktease. and it's just lovely. not 'lovely' like tidy and lavender-scented (although it is a book oddly preoccupied with scent, or rather "stink"), but "lovely" like rich and lush and vibrant and very nearly tangible. these perfectly imperfect characters burst up offa the page, and you feel more connected to them than they do to each other, as the three siblings grow up and apart under the weight of parental sacrifice and expectations, leaving their native hawai’i behind for mainland opportunities, none of which go quite as planned. it's a stunning debut. i preferred the earthier parts to the *flighty hand gesture* bits, but that's me, loving the fighting spirit that shrugs at poverty and tragedy and early promise gone awry, feeling these characters' physical and spiritual exhaustion all through the bones of me. the writing is so absolutely outstanding, i can't praise it enough. a book like this is a rare treat and i cannot wait for his next one. ************************************************ 4.5 rounded up DESPITE very limited shark-content. review to come one more shark week read!!! this arrived at my house; unexpected, unrequested, so to whatever book fairy over at MCD knows who i am (and where i live), thank you and happy early shark week! come to my blog!!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jon Nakapalau

    Magical realism is interwoven with the legends of Hawai’i in this haunting novel about family and destiny. When Nainoa Flores falls into the Pacific Ocean it seems as if this is the end when sharks start to appear in the water. Everyone is sure the child will meet with a tragic end until (Noa) is gently delivered back to his mother in the jaws of a shark. In Hawai’ian legends Kāmohoaliʻi is the shark god associated with protection and guidance; families that relied upon the sea for a livelihood Magical realism is interwoven with the legends of Hawai’i in this haunting novel about family and destiny. When Nainoa Flores falls into the Pacific Ocean it seems as if this is the end when sharks start to appear in the water. Everyone is sure the child will meet with a tragic end until (Noa) is gently delivered back to his mother in the jaws of a shark. In Hawai’ian legends Kāmohoaliʻi is the shark god associated with protection and guidance; families that relied upon the sea for a livelihood often revered and made offerings to him. But just as in Greek mythology the gifts of the gods often have a price - and that price is often paid by the whole family. Kawai Strong Washburn looks at issues facing modern Hawai’ian families (often strangers in their own land) and examines this as only an insider can: tradition and individual tragedy bite deep into this contemporary tale of cursed blessings - highest recommendation.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kawai

    Pretty great. There was a lot of olfactory stuff going on in the middle. Could probably use a few less f-bombs. This is worth a read: https://believermag.com/that-same-kin... Pretty great. There was a lot of olfactory stuff going on in the middle. Could probably use a few less f-bombs. This is worth a read: https://believermag.com/that-same-kin...

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    A Hawaiian family is thrown into turmoil when their middle son, Nainoa, is saved from drowning by sharks. He seems to develop an ability to heal but not all gifts are gifts. The novel follows Noa and his siblings as they attempt to forge their own identities, and the parents as they try to make ends meet. This book was selected for the Tournament of Books CampToB so I'm looking forward to more people in my circles reading it. It's a very strong debut! I had an ARC from the publisher which I read A Hawaiian family is thrown into turmoil when their middle son, Nainoa, is saved from drowning by sharks. He seems to develop an ability to heal but not all gifts are gifts. The novel follows Noa and his siblings as they attempt to forge their own identities, and the parents as they try to make ends meet. This book was selected for the Tournament of Books CampToB so I'm looking forward to more people in my circles reading it. It's a very strong debut! I had an ARC from the publisher which I read a bit late - this came out in March.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Michael Finocchiaro

    This was an interesting work of magical realism about a Hawai'ian family set in 2007-2009. Having a friend who is from Hawai'i, I could more fully appreciate a bit more about the local culture and the poverty which lurks behind the glass and steel Honolulu financial district as well as how American culture over the past century has nearly destroyed what gods and beliefs which were there before the US invaded the islands. It is a book of hope and despair, magic and brutal realism, crime, and forg This was an interesting work of magical realism about a Hawai'ian family set in 2007-2009. Having a friend who is from Hawai'i, I could more fully appreciate a bit more about the local culture and the poverty which lurks behind the glass and steel Honolulu financial district as well as how American culture over the past century has nearly destroyed what gods and beliefs which were there before the US invaded the islands. It is a book of hope and despair, magic and brutal realism, crime, and forgiveness. It was nearly a 5-star for me. Can't explain exactly what is holding me back, but I did enjoy it very much and I can see why it won the PEN/Hemingway for the best debut novel of 2020. The Kindle edition featured a great interview between the author and Marlon James. The story of Noa's salvation by the sharks opens the book and we follow his mother, his brother, and his sister as they deal with his brief celebrity all in different ways. It is hard to avoid spoilers here so I'll just say that the climax of the novel creates cataclysmic changes in all of the characters in the novel. There is also a certain moral ambiguity that comes into play that might feel a bit uncomfortable at the end of the book. As a reading experience, I preferred the first half of the book to the second half, but it was still an interesting story and kept me involved. At times it was emotionally challenging, but it never goes overboard in sentimentalism. I wonder whether Washburn will continue to write in this magical realistic style or if he will turn to realism. One important theme in the book is the impact of unrealistic expectations on kids. After the child Noa is saved by sharks at the beginning of the novel, his family and those around them assume that he has superpowers and this creates a considerable burden on him. It becomes an economic constraint because he is expected to save the family financially by leveraging his gift. Over time, he is able to use his healing gifts, but as he is not omnipotent, the one time it fails him, his life crumbles. As someone who was identified as "gifted" as a kid, the occasional and inevitable failures in my academic and professional life were made probably more difficult to get over because of the pressure I would put on myself about this "superpower" that I was supposed to have, the Einstein I was expected to become. I think the lesson here is that self-worth should be built on achievable, observable, rational things. Perhaps the whole idea of giving labels to kids like "being gifted" is ultimately damaging to child psyches. One quote I wrote down: "you're watching, later, from a distance so great that the memory might as well be a spill of stars outside a window at twilight." Comparing this to other magical realist writers - Marquez, Calvino, Allende, Murakami - the tone is not as sweeping as in One Hundred Years of Solitude, not as poetic as Invisible Cities, a bit less nostalgic than The House of the Spirits, and less absurdist and quirky than The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. So, I would not quite say that it was groundbreaking in the sense that any of those previous works was. I think its primary merit is in educating us haoles about Hawai'i's mythology and dialect.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Richard Derus

    PENAmerica Hemingway Award for Debut Novel Winner! https://pen.org/press-release/2021-pe... Real Rating: 4.5* of five The voices of these characters whose family, that awful itchy nest, is wrapped in a golden mist of mythological reality, are shouting their horror and pain at the void inside them, the one that Being Different opens in all of us...and who could possibly be more different than a boy saved by a shark? Author Washburn will gladly fill you in on who: The whole damned crew, that's who, e PENAmerica Hemingway Award for Debut Novel Winner! https://pen.org/press-release/2021-pe... Real Rating: 4.5* of five The voices of these characters whose family, that awful itchy nest, is wrapped in a golden mist of mythological reality, are shouting their horror and pain at the void inside them, the one that Being Different opens in all of us...and who could possibly be more different than a boy saved by a shark? Author Washburn will gladly fill you in on who: The whole damned crew, that's who, every single life suddenly changed without any notion of consent. Gods don't ask, they give-take. There's never a single uncomplicated act in a god's repertoire, that is not how the Universe works. Author Washburn knows this. He has plumbed some depths in order to bring this story to us. I have a lot more to say on my blog.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    Audiobook...narrated by Jolene Kim, Kaleo Griffith, G.K.Bowen, Tui Asau .....10 hours and 38 minutes.... ‘synced’ with the ebook. NOTE...Although I did enjoy the audiobook....(the narrators were excellent), I got much more from reading the ebook. This was an awesome debut.....by Kawai Strong Washburn.... who dedicated this book to his Granny, who drove him 80 miles round-trip to get the next book in the series. This magical....mystical... lyrical.... heart warming.... contemporary ‘comic/tragic’ Audiobook...narrated by Jolene Kim, Kaleo Griffith, G.K.Bowen, Tui Asau .....10 hours and 38 minutes.... ‘synced’ with the ebook. NOTE...Although I did enjoy the audiobook....(the narrators were excellent), I got much more from reading the ebook. This was an awesome debut.....by Kawai Strong Washburn.... who dedicated this book to his Granny, who drove him 80 miles round-trip to get the next book in the series. This magical....mystical... lyrical.... heart warming.... contemporary ‘comic/tragic’ family story....begins in Kailua-Kona.....1995. [ends in 2009] The Flores are on a vacation. The parents are Augie, and Malia. Nainoa (Noa), and Dean are brothers. Kaui is the sister. Each family member alternates in narrating. Over the course of 400 pages/ or 10+ hours from the audiobook.... our connection with each one of the characters become more intimate. Malia begins telling the story. [thereafter...each family member switches off telling their story - sharing their feelings and perspectives] Malia tells us there had been ‘signs’ — obvious signs of what the gods wanted from their family. The myth people said the first sign was with the sharks — but Malia knew differently. The Gods started earlier—-The kingdom of Hawaii had long been broken. The sugarcane plantation had been around since before their kids had been born. It had once been prosperous—but was now shutting down. “The breathing rain forests and singing green reefs crushed under the haole fists of beach resorts and skyscrapers—and that is when the land had began calling. Malia knew the gods were hungry for change and that their son, Noa, was that change. Malia knew her son, Noa ( all of seven years of age), had seen the end coming before anyone. Family meals got small - financial struggles were on the rise. Near the beginning.... People were gathered along the cabled rail of the slick white deck, looking into the ocean. Everyone in the family was there except, Noa. His head was bobbing like a coconut in the ocean. Things happen quickly and were confusing. The water where Noa had been was all churned. “The shapes of the sharks were thrashing, diving, rising, something like a dance”. The shark was holding Noa gently— as if he were made of glass— like Noa was the sharks child. Noa was saved. Noa being saved by the shark, was when Malia started to believe— Believed the Hawaiian gods —that the native legends were real. Life kept changing— each family member was changing - Hawaii was changing - There was sibling rivalry- fighting - grappling with identity - supernatural events - moving - education - jobs - coming of age —- I rarely reach for books with the magical realism feeling..... but if you’ve been to Hawaii it ‘is’ magical....lush...and enchanting. So reading this book felt very natural to me - much in the same way I feel when I’m in Hawaii, bathed in ‘magical-beauty’. What I love so much about this novel was not only the characters and their growth development—( but that was a big part of what I liked, too), but the atmosphere- culture- deep waters- waves - flowers - smells - sounds - birds- sand - heat - breath - trees - stars > all together becomes a wonderful kaleidoscope of magnificence. “I am the sand that was blown to life with the breath of all the gods and I am the wet mud of the valley and I am a green that grows from within it. I am the shore the drift of the world underwater and I am the Shaner the wave throws over. I am the atmosphere that heats the thunderheads and I am the cool rain the thirsty soil reclaims”. It’s hard to believe that this lushly woven tale was a debut. Note..... Reading this book was a teaser.... Hoping to go to Hawaii this December....( but with the pandemic we’re on standby-wait-and-see).

  8. 5 out of 5

    Nadia

    I got excited when I read this was a magical realism book set in Hawaii and followed a native Hawaiian family.  Noa is one of three children, the gifted one, who was rescued by sharks when he accidentally went overboard on a cruise ship. Noa's powers to communicate with animals as well as to heal become the centre of family attention, making his brother's and sister's achievements less important and causing a divide in the family.   Unfortunately the prose and the narration voice didn't click with I got excited when I read this was a magical realism book set in Hawaii and followed a native Hawaiian family.  Noa is one of three children, the gifted one, who was rescued by sharks when he accidentally went overboard on a cruise ship. Noa's powers to communicate with animals as well as to heal become the centre of family attention, making his brother's and sister's achievements less important and causing a divide in the family.   Unfortunately the prose and the narration voice didn't click with me from the start. I struggled to distinguish between the four narrators. The prose was too descriptive and unfocused making it a slow read. At around 25% mark the story gets more interesting as we follow the lives of the three siblings in the mainland US, but my attention was lost again after the family is struck by a tragedy and the rest of the book seems to be dedicated to their grievances.  The magical realism fell flat for me, comparing this book to Marquez is very misleading in my opinion. This book is not for everyone and it wasn't for me but many people seem to have loved it. Many thanks to the publisher for my review copy in exchange for an honest review.

  9. 4 out of 5

    The Artisan Geek

    21/11/20 The author was so kind to send me a copy. Can't wait to start reading! You can find me on Youtube | Instagram | Twitter | Tumblr | Website 21/11/20 The author was so kind to send me a copy. Can't wait to start reading! You can find me on Youtube | Instagram | Twitter | Tumblr | Website

  10. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    DNF @ page 66 I think the fact that this is the first book I've DNF'd in 8 years says it all.  Between the painfully labored prose - it's one of those books where it feels like the author is trying to imbue every single sentence with Meaning - and the fact that all four protagonists that I've encountered so far have the exact same narrative voice, I just can't.  This reads like an unfinished MFA project. DNF @ page 66 I think the fact that this is the first book I've DNF'd in 8 years says it all.  Between the painfully labored prose - it's one of those books where it feels like the author is trying to imbue every single sentence with Meaning - and the fact that all four protagonists that I've encountered so far have the exact same narrative voice, I just can't.  This reads like an unfinished MFA project.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    [4+] There is magic in this very original novel, but it is firmly grounded in the distinct perspectives of four Hawaiian family members, all struggling to find a better life. Lyrical and devastating, I was mesmerized. The audio production is wonderful.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    Sadly, “Sharks In the Time of Saviors” was a bit too mystical and supernatural for my liking. It’s a character driven story containing Hawaiian dialect and vernacular. I wonder if I listened to the story, I would have enjoyed it more. I felt like I was translating sentences a lot of the time. I found that listening to a dialect is easier to figure out than reading it…at least for me. It’s a story of a Hawaiian family who believe in Hawaiian folklore and magic. They are poor and barely scrape by. Sadly, “Sharks In the Time of Saviors” was a bit too mystical and supernatural for my liking. It’s a character driven story containing Hawaiian dialect and vernacular. I wonder if I listened to the story, I would have enjoyed it more. I felt like I was translating sentences a lot of the time. I found that listening to a dialect is easier to figure out than reading it…at least for me. It’s a story of a Hawaiian family who believe in Hawaiian folklore and magic. They are poor and barely scrape by. When the parents decide to take a boat adventure (which was a financial splurge that they shouldn’t have done) their youngest son falls off the boat. He is saved by a shark. One shark places the child in his mouth and carefully swims the boy back to the boat. The townsfolk learn of his specialness and he becomes a legend. Of course, he’s the center of unwanted attention. This changes the family dynamics with the other two children feeling ignored. It’s a family saga of disassociating and their journey of finding their way. It was a slow read for me and didn’t really capture my full attention. I think I am a minority in my opinion.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Tammy

    I am not a fan of magical realism but this Hawaiian family narrative is filled with the primal power of the Hula. A throbbing story that addresses head-on the issues of class, race, and poverty. You can feel the rhythm of islands chanting for recognition of its lore, fables, and legends through this family bound together by love and their undulating homeland that will not be ignored.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Bianca

    I borrowed this audiobook towards the end of last year but I was too busy and couldn't concentrate so I returned it unread. I'm so glad I remembered to try it again, as it was such a delightful novel. The writing was beautifully lyrical and the magical realism elements didn't overwhelm, they just added fairy dust for lack of a better metaphor. The characters of this novel are the members of the Flores family, the matriarch, Malia, and her husband, Augie, and their three kids - two boys, Dean and N I borrowed this audiobook towards the end of last year but I was too busy and couldn't concentrate so I returned it unread. I'm so glad I remembered to try it again, as it was such a delightful novel. The writing was beautifully lyrical and the magical realism elements didn't overwhelm, they just added fairy dust for lack of a better metaphor. The characters of this novel are the members of the Flores family, the matriarch, Malia, and her husband, Augie, and their three kids - two boys, Dean and Noa, and their little sister, Kaui. Malia and her kids get their points of view in alternate chapters. Through them, we get to know their personalities and views on the family, Hawai'i, their destinies and roles in the family, while they grow up and try to make their way in life, outside the constraints of the family and Hawai'i. It's a story we're all familiar with, but it was brilliantly put together by Strong Washburn. Some of the themes covered are those of family, destiny, old beliefs, socio-economic standing, ambition, the love/hate relationship that one can develop with their place of birth which sometimes can feel claustrophobic. It's also about an old culture that's being swelled up by developers and tourism. There's no way around it, this is an impressive novel, I absolutely loved it. If you're into audiobooks, this was outstanding. NB: I forgot to mention that this was on Obama's Best books of 2020.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Monica

    Epic family saga about life for native Pacific Islanders in Hawaii and on the mainland. Featuring some magical realism and folklore. Great debut. I was riveted! 4+ Stars Listened to the audio book which was superbly performed by the cast: G. K. Bowes, Joleme Kim, Kaleo Griffith, and Tui Asau.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Amanda - Mrs B's Book Reviews

    The author of Sharks in the Time of Saviours, was born and raised on the Big Island of Hawaiʻi. This grounding has put the author in good stead to produce an authentic novel set in Hawaiʻi. Kawai Strong Washburn presents a contextual family drama, that encompasses themes of class, poverty, economics, opportunity, culture, old world faith, belief systems, magical realism and survival. Opening in the year 1994, Sharks in the Time of Saviours simultaneously reveals the cultural fabric of this natio The author of Sharks in the Time of Saviours, was born and raised on the Big Island of Hawaiʻi. This grounding has put the author in good stead to produce an authentic novel set in Hawaiʻi. Kawai Strong Washburn presents a contextual family drama, that encompasses themes of class, poverty, economics, opportunity, culture, old world faith, belief systems, magical realism and survival. Opening in the year 1994, Sharks in the Time of Saviours simultaneously reveals the cultural fabric of this nation, as well as its secrets, while relaying the astonishing rescue of child. When seven year old Nainia Flores is saved from possible drowning by a school of sharks, his financially strapped family sees this miracle act as the ultimate sign from the gods. Their child, Nainia, is the chosen one, and his rescue heralds a great gift from the ancient gods of the land. What follows this incident and the Flores clan, is a true test of the human spirit. Sharks in the Time of Saviours is a moving debut, punctuated by drifting and poetic prose, with heartbreaking, as well as melancholic undertones. This book is unquestionably an original and powerful ode, of mystical proportions, to the tropical idyll of Hawaiʻi. *I wish to thank Better Reading Preview/Penguin Books Australia for providing me with a free copy of this book.

  17. 5 out of 5

    luce

    DNF 25% The summary, title, and cover of Sharks in the Time of Saviors piqued my interest. Magical realism? A not so rosy take on the 'chosen one'? Yes, please. Sadly, 1/4 in and I find the story to be far more focused on Nainoa's siblings who whine about how overshadowed they feel by him and how unfair it all is that their parents pay him more attention. And...while I was expecting the novel to touch upon sibling rivalry, I wasn't prepared for it to be the sole focus of the story. Nainoa has very DNF 25% The summary, title, and cover of Sharks in the Time of Saviors piqued my interest. Magical realism? A not so rosy take on the 'chosen one'? Yes, please. Sadly, 1/4 in and I find the story to be far more focused on Nainoa's siblings who whine about how overshadowed they feel by him and how unfair it all is that their parents pay him more attention. And...while I was expecting the novel to touch upon sibling rivalry, I wasn't prepared for it to be the sole focus of the story. Nainoa has very little room to actually speak about his own experiences and his story is recounted by his jealous older brother and younger sister. They are unsympathetic, self-involved, and blind to their brother's pain. Having read a few other reviews, I know that Nainoa's chapters will dwindle halfway through the novel. Perhaps if the relationship between these three siblings was a bit more nuanced, I would be more interested in reading of their shifting dynamics. Their dislike for each other however is the only emotion that really transpires from these pages. The magical realisms is very much out of the picture. The narrative is more concerned with appearing as conversational as possible (a character will overuse 'like' and 'what', creating the effect that they can't quite remember something). The humour, exaggerated sex scenes, trying-hard-to-be-casual narratives were all not for me. This may be one of those 'it's not the book, it's me'...so I wouldn't necessarily not recommend this book...just be aware that its story has little to do with 'the chosen one' or 'magical realism'.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Fabian

    The Great Hawaiian Novel mixes forgotten gods with real, forgotten lives. The plot taking audacious turns is but one of the many splendors inside of "Sharks." The last third of the novel is a devastating portrait; the first sections invigorate with the unwinding of three individual fates of the siblings, the Hawaiian youth--how different they are & yet how they fit within the family unit, are indispensable, in fact, without one another--is why betting on Washburn's future permanence in the canon The Great Hawaiian Novel mixes forgotten gods with real, forgotten lives. The plot taking audacious turns is but one of the many splendors inside of "Sharks." The last third of the novel is a devastating portrait; the first sections invigorate with the unwinding of three individual fates of the siblings, the Hawaiian youth--how different they are & yet how they fit within the family unit, are indispensable, in fact, without one another--is why betting on Washburn's future permanence in the canon is a sure thing.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Marianne

    Sharks in the Time of Saviours is the first novel by Hawaiian-born author, Kawai Strong Washburn. Conceived on a night when the gods roam the Big Island, Nainao Flores is different from the start, and it eventually becomes more apparent how special he is. Gifted (or plagued) with premonitory visions, saved by sharks, able to heal, a boy so singular is bound to be treated differently. So young, yet believing himself charged with the salvation of the islands. But this (perhaps) messiah is not an on Sharks in the Time of Saviours is the first novel by Hawaiian-born author, Kawai Strong Washburn. Conceived on a night when the gods roam the Big Island, Nainao Flores is different from the start, and it eventually becomes more apparent how special he is. Gifted (or plagued) with premonitory visions, saved by sharks, able to heal, a boy so singular is bound to be treated differently. So young, yet believing himself charged with the salvation of the islands. But this (perhaps) messiah is not an only child. Nor do his parents know quite how to nurture the gift. From them comes favour and protection and support; from his siblings, in addition to the usual love and rivalry, there’s also jealousy and resentment. And from the island dwellers, the entreaties (or sometimes, demands) to heal. And none of it alters the fact that there’s no living to be made in the islands. Dean heads to Spokane on a basketball scholarship to make it big; Nainoa finds himself a paramedic in Portland, using his gift to save the dying, while Kaui determines to quash her invisibility by becoming an engineer. But away from home, nothing goes completely right for any of them… What a powerful, moving tale Washburn gives the reader! His characters are complex and believable, with flaws and redeeming qualities both. Washburn has a talent for conveying feelings and emotions, of which his characters exhibit anxiety, grief, love, wonder, envy, heartbreak and much more besides. Sometimes they are deeply spiritual, at other times, forced to be practical, but ultimately the connection to the land and to all life forms, to the past and the present overrides all. There are touches of the paranormal, of magical realism in this outstanding debut novel. Washburn is an author to watch This unbiased review is from an uncorrected proof copy provided by Better Reading Preview and Penguin Hamish Hamilton

  20. 5 out of 5

    lark benobi

    Reading this novel felt like I was holding sand in my hands. It took a lot of effort for me personally to hold the sense of story together as I read. The story kept wanting to sift away from me. I was rewarded by the soaring musicality of some passages, but as the novel progressed the story gradually lost coherence for me and I wasn't sure any longer what it was about. When this happens to me it usually means I've misunderstood the author intent at the beginning, and that the novel deserves a re Reading this novel felt like I was holding sand in my hands. It took a lot of effort for me personally to hold the sense of story together as I read. The story kept wanting to sift away from me. I was rewarded by the soaring musicality of some passages, but as the novel progressed the story gradually lost coherence for me and I wasn't sure any longer what it was about. When this happens to me it usually means I've misunderstood the author intent at the beginning, and that the novel deserves a re-read. But another challenge for me here is that the novel adopts the storytelling structure of a rotating series of first-person voices, and most of these first-person voices are coming from a point of view that's young, vernacular, and informal. While I can enjoy this style of writing as live performance or monologue, it's not my sweet spot as a reader when it comes in the shape of a novel. I got fatigued by the fairly accurate representation here of how teens think and speak. I'm genuinely sorry I wasn't up to loving this novel more than I did.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Carmel Hanes

    I had no idea what to expect from this novel, and even as I began, the story seemed to morph in focus as I read, keeping me from settling into complacency. It takes Hawaiian folk lore, mixes it with magical realism, and stirs in family dynamics creating layers of struggle--to understand others and ourselves, to find our place and survive. There are several alternating points of view that create the narrative, that of the three kids and their mother through most of the book. At times the language I had no idea what to expect from this novel, and even as I began, the story seemed to morph in focus as I read, keeping me from settling into complacency. It takes Hawaiian folk lore, mixes it with magical realism, and stirs in family dynamics creating layers of struggle--to understand others and ourselves, to find our place and survive. There are several alternating points of view that create the narrative, that of the three kids and their mother through most of the book. At times the language is pretty straightforward and other times it gets more mystical and abstract. There are also Hawaiian phrases, words and concepts embedded, which can either add authenticity or distract, depending on the reader. I enjoyed them. The setting descriptions are as lush as my experience of Hawaii, and knowing some of the places mentioned added to my enjoyment of the novel. Some of the chapters and their focus were less than gripping. But what resonated most deeply for me was Noa's gifted burden, and his loneliness in carrying it. By chance, or divine intervention, he had the bar of expectation raised and he struggled valiantly to meet it. He struggled valiantly to understand it. As I read, I thought of so many others, in ordinary life, who dedicate themselves to being of service to others. Nurses, teachers, social workers, police officers, counselors, doctors, parents...all trying to "heal" others in their own ways. All trying to use their personal "gifts" in a way to improve the world around them, one by one. All having the expectation bar dictate day to day life. And I thought of how depleted they can become when the steady stream of needs runs them dry. By the end of the story, as family members find an intangible, sustaining force to tap into, I felt myself tapping into it also...that undercurrent of strength that we all need to feel in order to endure the challenges, the bad. Because, hey...in magical realism, we get to make up our own realities, right? In my reality, I'd sit on a high bluff, overlooking the ocean, sharing a meal and conversation with Nainoa every day of the week.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Sonja Arlow

    Sometimes literary fiction is hard to digest, even if the writing is clearly strong. At first glance this seems like a story about a young boy with a mystical connection to nature. When he falls overboard on a ship, a circle of sharks do not devour him but gently delivers him to his mother. This is the moment that will divide and test the family for the rest of their lives. As Nainoa is “special” his needs and wants are placed above that of his siblings, driving a seemingly insurmountable wedge b Sometimes literary fiction is hard to digest, even if the writing is clearly strong. At first glance this seems like a story about a young boy with a mystical connection to nature. When he falls overboard on a ship, a circle of sharks do not devour him but gently delivers him to his mother. This is the moment that will divide and test the family for the rest of their lives. As Nainoa is “special” his needs and wants are placed above that of his siblings, driving a seemingly insurmountable wedge between everyone in the family. Each chapter is narrated by alternatively the mother and her 3 children. Each grapple with their identity throughout the years, trying to understand themselves and the Hawaiian land that tugs at their soul. There is a lot to be admired in this debut. There was a very distinct feeling of time and place with many references to Hawaiian culture, folklore and beliefs. It showed how the bonds that bind you to your family can become a prison, but also how those same bonds can become elastic and stretch across oceans providing a safe haven when you need it most. There was also a lot that made this a hard read. Difficult Hawaiian words that are left unexplained, the overlapping tragedies, symbolism and unfamiliar beliefs that muddled the story. Although I can see from an intellectual level that this was a good book, I felt drained reading it.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Gloria Arthur (Ms. G's Bookshelf)

    ⭐️3.5⭐️ Sharks in the Time of Saviours is a Hawaiian family saga. The story begins when this family who are trying to make ends meet are taking a rare holiday and seven-year-old Ninoa falls overboard into the ocean and is dangerously surrounded by four sharks. Miraculously he is carried safety and gently back to the boat in the mouth of a shark. Through this freak act of nature Ninoa then becomes a legend and is thought to be gifted with special powers of the gods that will heal people. His siblin ⭐️3.5⭐️ Sharks in the Time of Saviours is a Hawaiian family saga. The story begins when this family who are trying to make ends meet are taking a rare holiday and seven-year-old Ninoa falls overboard into the ocean and is dangerously surrounded by four sharks. Miraculously he is carried safety and gently back to the boat in the mouth of a shark. Through this freak act of nature Ninoa then becomes a legend and is thought to be gifted with special powers of the gods that will heal people. His siblings feel resentment and jealously when Ninoa always appears to be treated with more importance by their parents than how they are. I loved the way the story encompasses the native Hawaiian beliefs of spirits, myths and gods. The family dynamics were well written. There are a lot of supernatural events and it’s a very spiritual tale. A great story for lovers of magical realism. I wish to thank Better Reading & Penguin Hamish Hamilton for generously providing me with an advanced copy of the book to read in return for an honest review

  24. 4 out of 5

    Silvana

    Not what I expected, but it turned out to be really good nonetheless. I found out about this book very recently from a 'new releases you should check out' article (maybe from Tor). The title grabbed me immediately since it has sharks in it. And the cover! As a marine enthusiast, my heart leaped with joy due to the opportunity to read a fantasy book with sharks in it. I was wrong. The novel barely had sharks in it. It's more literary fiction, imbued with magical realism you could find in Isabel Al Not what I expected, but it turned out to be really good nonetheless. I found out about this book very recently from a 'new releases you should check out' article (maybe from Tor). The title grabbed me immediately since it has sharks in it. And the cover! As a marine enthusiast, my heart leaped with joy due to the opportunity to read a fantasy book with sharks in it. I was wrong. The novel barely had sharks in it. It's more literary fiction, imbued with magical realism you could find in Isabel Allende or Gabriel Garcia Marquez's novels. It is a family story that started in Hawai'i about a mother, a father, three children, one of which experienced a possibly divine intervention. Or did he? The magical elements were so few I think some might even be in the characters' own heads. How about the plot? Oh it is so subtle people might find it hard to find. Nevertheless, if you enjoy explorations on identities, way of being, and all that jazz, you will enjoy this. Boy, was it immersive. The Hawaiian culture (myth included) not only in the background but served as an integral part of the characters' narratives. The writing flows really well too. I learned a new word that described the style: vernacular (thanks, Gabi!) Sure I got a bit impatient at times but there was not any torpor in the narration. The characters - the book is told from multiple POVs - felt real. Human. You just almost experienced the struggle, sweat, blood, tears, aches. It could have a stronger ending but this is already a strong debut novel. I'll be looking forward to what the author has to offer next. Thank you Farrar, Straus and Giroux for the review copy.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Oleksandr Zholud

    This is a modern literary fiction imbued with magical realism in line with Latin American literature. A very strong debut novel about a Hawaiian family, estranged from their ancestral land and thrown into the modern world. I read is as a part of monthly reading for May 2020 at SFF Hot from Printers: New Releases group. There four different voices that tell the story of the family: a mother and her three children, two boys and a girl. The mother, Malia, is a simple loving woman, straightforward i This is a modern literary fiction imbued with magical realism in line with Latin American literature. A very strong debut novel about a Hawaiian family, estranged from their ancestral land and thrown into the modern world. I read is as a part of monthly reading for May 2020 at SFF Hot from Printers: New Releases group. There four different voices that tell the story of the family: a mother and her three children, two boys and a girl. The mother, Malia, is a simple loving woman, straightforward in her story, which may seem ‘impolite’ for some western readers, for she readily speaks about sex or farting just like about work or preparing a dinner. Once, her younger son, Nainoa, fell overboard, but sharks instead of eating him, nudged him back to the boat, which is seen as a divine intervention. After that people started to ask him to cure them – quite a pressure on a young boy. His older brother, Dean, thinks that parents love his brother more, he is special, and thus tries to win their love by exceling in basketball, planning to get rich and take his family to the mainland USA. Their sister, Kaui, also thinks that the parents care for the brothers much more than for her. The family faces financial hardships, each sibling finally enters big universities and go on living in San Diego, Portland and Spokane. The novel has a classic cycle: an idyllic (even if not very easy) pastoral life on an island is exchanged on empty promises of a big city, while the home calls for you… a very well written book, but it is not exactly what I prefer to read.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Elaine

    3.5 with a first-novel round up. A promising premise, and a truly fascinating glimpse of life in the non-tourist native culture of Hawai'i that the brochures don't show you. I liked the blend of gritty details of working class life with flashes of magic, and there is some very lyrical writing. The novel’s early chapters are among the best and most original writing I have read in a long time. The problem is that the book has long flabby parts, and never recovers the enchantment of the beginning. 3.5 with a first-novel round up. A promising premise, and a truly fascinating glimpse of life in the non-tourist native culture of Hawai'i that the brochures don't show you. I liked the blend of gritty details of working class life with flashes of magic, and there is some very lyrical writing. The novel’s early chapters are among the best and most original writing I have read in a long time. The problem is that the book has long flabby parts, and never recovers the enchantment of the beginning. The archetypes are set up early - salt of the earth parents, the "chosen one" son, the sassy smart younger sister, and the older athletic screw-up brother. The latter two are frozen in resentment of their brother, and of their parents' hopes for their brother, and let their own considerable talents (and connection to the ancestral magic) wither as a result. Most of the character development and growth comes at the end. In the middle come long chapters where the plot advances in lurches - we keep waiting for the dramatic impulse of the book's opening to return, but it never does. Washburn's voice is strong, but can't quite hold you through the emotional sameness of the long middle chapters. Very minor demerits for anachronisms in slang and pop culture. Washburn has increased the number of novels I've read about Hawaiian culture from 0 to 1, and for that I'm grateful. He conveys the unique beauty of an ancient culture and its very specific modern incarnation that is very different from anything I've read about before - even in the stories of indigenous people from the mainland. I look forward to reading more of what Washburn writes - with some restraint making his work tighter, it could be truly extraordinary.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jessie

    I actually Finished Kawai Strong Washburn’s Sharks in the Time of Saviors on it’s publication day, which was yesterday, but I needed a whole night to sleep on it, because, wow. About a family who builds their identity around one child rescued by sharks and seemingly carrying sacred abilities within his body, this book details how those expectations dull some, harm others, and divide a family and the power that would otherwise be held within that unit. About sibling rivalry, about the grinding po I actually Finished Kawai Strong Washburn’s Sharks in the Time of Saviors on it’s publication day, which was yesterday, but I needed a whole night to sleep on it, because, wow. About a family who builds their identity around one child rescued by sharks and seemingly carrying sacred abilities within his body, this book details how those expectations dull some, harm others, and divide a family and the power that would otherwise be held within that unit. About sibling rivalry, about the grinding poverty that Native Hawaiians are forced to endure in their home that is a playground to the white and wealthy, about growing up and finding yourself, about surviving loss, and about connecting to the ancestors and all of creation, this book was singular. The writing was entirely it’s own, the characters became people I loved fiercely, and the power of the text blew me out of the water again and again and again. I was voracious for this book, and I wish I could start it fresh with new eyes so I could experience it all over again. Thank you @mcclellandstewart for this review copy, I couldn’t have possibly loved this book more.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    DNF @ 4% 4% of the book is enough to tell that this prose is 100% not for me.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Queralt✨

    Magical realism, a native Hawaiian family, Hawaii, family drama, and lyrical writing. Big yes.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Gabi

    Leaning towards 4.5 stars A beautiful and intense narration. A tale of a Hawai'ian family battling with poverty, cultural identity and the respective place in the family. While the parents unintentionally favour one son, because he seems to be touched by their ancient gods, the other two siblings try to master their lives in the shadow of their brother. In a vernacular, authentic voice Washburn presents the estrangement in four POVs (the three siblings and the mother). For the audiobook four diffe Leaning towards 4.5 stars A beautiful and intense narration. A tale of a Hawai'ian family battling with poverty, cultural identity and the respective place in the family. While the parents unintentionally favour one son, because he seems to be touched by their ancient gods, the other two siblings try to master their lives in the shadow of their brother. In a vernacular, authentic voice Washburn presents the estrangement in four POVs (the three siblings and the mother). For the audiobook four different narrators read the respective chapters which enhances the genuine feeling even more. Hawai'ian myths and tradition are an integral part of the coming of age of the young people no matter how far they sheer off their home island. Washburn's prose feels honest, down to earth, but still imbued with poetry and magic. A wonderful combination in this strong debut novel.

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