FICTION

Sharks in the Time of Saviors

MCD: Farrar. Mar. 2020. 384p. ISBN 9780374272081. $27. F
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redstarDEBUT Washburn’s first novel is a story of Hawaii and of its strength, founded not merely in sentiment but in tangible, mystical forces rooted in history and in the very soil. When Noa falls into the ocean as a child and is rescued by sharks and later as a middle schooler miraculously restores a playmate’s mangled hand by touch, his reputation as a “healer” is made. Noa’s brother, Dean, develops into a basketball phenomenon, aggressively recruited by colleges, and their sister, Kaui, breaks the curves in her mechanical engineering curriculum. The three siblings are seen by their parents as the saviors the parents could never be, but they are flawed saviors. Noa’s healing power is erratic, and he eventually disappears in the Hawaiian wilderness in search of his destiny. His siblings also encounter roadblocks, largely of their own making, leading to greatly lowered expectations. All this wreaks havoc on the hopeful parents, with their father suffering a nervous breakdown and their mother carrying the burden of the family’s travails. Recalling Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, each character in turn narrates portions of the story, an effective technique that offers a 360-degree perspective while keeping the story’s secrets until ready to be revealed.
VERDICT A more than noteworthy first foray into contemporary fiction by Hawaiian native Washburn. [See Prepub Alert, 9/9/19.]

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