Review of “Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers” by Sara Ackerman

Ackerman, Sara. Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers. Don Mills, Ontario: MIRA Books, 2018. ISBN-13: 978-0-7783-1921-4. $15.99 USD. 

5 stars

I discovered Sara Ackerman at the same book event during which I discovered Bridget Quinn, and I was surprised and excited, after living in Hawaii all my life and largely considering the majority of the local literature as “not for me,” to find a Hawaii resident who wrote a book in a genre I was interested in. And upon digging into the book, I found it was a truly enjoyable reading experience.

Mixing first and third person POV can be a hit-or-miss with me, and in this case, it definitely worked well to differentiate the voices of both Violet and her daughter, Ella, and even makes sense narratively when it comes to the crucial moment when Ella reveals that she knows what really happened to her father.

The story also benefits from a diverse and colorful cast of characters, which reflects the demographics of Hawaii during the war. I love how Ackerman managed to capture the real sense of community between people from different backgrounds, presenting a narrative about the experience of Japanese Americans and their friends in Hawaii during a time when the government was against them, especially if they were in a position of influence.

Despite the story focusing mostly on the bond between the female characters, there are romantic elements, including a slowly building relationship between Violet and Parker, one of the soldiers temporarily stationed there. But it isn’t the major driving force of the story, so even if the ending left the romance feeling a little unresolved, I still felt that the book had accomplished all of the things it had promised to do, with no disappointment was I read the final words, as I had a feeling that things would be all right between them.

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