Review of “Red Sky Over Hawaii” by Sara Ackerman

Ackerman, Sara. Red Sky Over Hawaii. Toronto, Ontario; Mira, 2020.

ISBN-13: 978-077809673 | $17.99 USD | 338 pages | Historical Fiction

Blurb

Inspired by real places and events of WWII, Red Sky Over Hawaii immerses the reader in a time of American history full of suspicion and peril in this lush and poignant tale about the indisputable power of doing the right thing against all odds.

The attack on Pearl Harbor changes everything for Lana Hitchcock. Arriving home on the Big Island too late to reconcile with her estranged father, she is left alone to untangle the clues of his legacy, which lead to a secret property tucked away in the remote rain forest of Kilauea volcano. When the government starts taking away her neighbors as suspected sympathizers, Lana shelters two young German girls, a Japanese fisherman and his son. As tensions escalate, they are forced into hiding—only to discover the hideaway house is not what they expected.

When a detainment camp is established nearby, Lana struggles to keep the secrets of those in her care. Trust could have dangerous consequences. As their lives weave together, Lana begins to understand the true meaning of family and how the bonds of love carry us through the worst times.

Review

5 stars 

Red Sky Over Hawaii is another winner from Sara Ackerman. I love how she manages to sweep the reader away into history and simultaneously  give them an entertaining read and engross them in a bit of history at the same time.

While I had been taught in school that martial law led to internment not being as widespread in Hawaii during World War II, I was aware it did happen, because of monuments like Honouliuli,, and admire Ackerman for attempting to recreate the fear and uncertainty the people were going through at the time. And having learned previously about German and Italian American internment in the US during World War II, I was amazed to learn that there were also some of them among those interned. 

I really felt for Lana and how she found herself losing her father just  after being reunited, presenting a theme of war leading to family separation,  which was echoed in other characters, as well as continuing to resonate with many real life stories from the time. 

Full of Ackerman’s signature transportive writing, this book is fabulous and is a must-read for lovers of historical fiction. 

Author Bio

Sara writes books about love and life, and all of their messy and beautiful imperfections. She believes that the light is just as important as the dark, and that the world is in need of uplifting and heartwarming stories. Born and raised in Hawaii, she studied journalism and later earned graduate degrees in psychology and Chinese medicine (read more). She blames Hawaii for her addiction to writing, and sees no end to its untapped stories. 

A few of her favorite things, in no particular order – hiking, homemade PIZZA, a good thunderstorm, stargazing, BOOKS, craft beer, her wonderful BOYFRIEND, surfing, mountain streams, friends, and ANIMALS.  In fact, animals inhabit all of her novels in some way, shape or form – dogs, donkeys, sea turtles, a featherless chicken, endangered Hawaiian crows, horses, and even a lion. When she’s not writing or teaching, you’ll find her in the mountains or in the ocean, which is where most of her inspiration happens.

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Review of “The Lieutenant’s Nurse” by Sara Ackerman

Ackerman, Sara. The Lieutenant’s Nurse. Toronto, Ontario: Mira Books, 2019.

Paperback | $16.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0778307914 | 335 pages | Historical Fiction

5 stars

I was super excited for The Lieutenant’s Nurse, given how much I adored Sara Ackerman’s previous book, Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers, so much so that I didn’t even bother to investigate what the story was about before adding it to my TBR. But once I did take the time to find out, I was even more excited, given the untapped potential (at least in historical fiction books) of the storyline focusing largely on the days leading up to and following the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.

And Ackerman remains consistent in building on a sheer breadth of research to craft an engaging story rife with history, drama, romance, and even friendship. While the setup suggested that the love triangle would overwhelm everything else, instead of being just one part of the story, I was pleasantly surprised that this was not the case. Eva and Clark do have evident feelings for one another, but it doesn’t feel like it overwhelms the plot or the stakes of the book, especially with so much else going on.

I was especially intrigued by Eva, since she seems to have left a dark secret behind her in Michigan, and I felt these flashbacks to her past were interweaved into the story in a great way, as well as leading up to a great conclusion. And on Clark’s side, it was fascinating to have the question explored of whether the Americans knew about the attack beforehand.

All in all, this is a wonderfully lush book with a compelling story and rich detail. It’s a definite must-read for all fans of historical fiction.

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.