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PARADE’s Best Books to Read this Summer
"A rich historical novel that illustrates why connection is more important and more vital than ever.” -New York Times bestselling author Lisa See
Daniel Abe, a young doctor in Chicago, is finally coming back to Hawai'i. He has his own reason for returning to his childhood home, but it is not to revisit the past, unlike his Uncle Koji. Koji lives with the memories of Daniel’s mother, Mariko, the love of his life, and the scars of a life hard-lived. He can’t wait to see Daniel, who he’s always thought of as a son, but he knows the time has come to tell him the truth about his mother, and his father. But Daniel’s arrival coincides with the awakening of the Mauna Loa volcano, and its dangerous path toward their village stirs both new and long ago passions in their community.
Alternating between past and present—from the day of the volcano eruption in 1935 to decades prior—The Color of Air interweaves the stories of Daniel, Koji, and Mariko to create a rich, vibrant, bittersweet chorus that celebrates their lifelong bond to one other and to their immigrant community. As Mauna Loa threatens their lives and livelihoods, it also unearths long held secrets simmering below the surface that meld past and present, revealing a path forward for them all.
The 1935 eruption of Hawaii's Mauna Loa volcano forms a suspenseful backdrop for Tsukiyama's engrossing novel (after A Hundred Flowers). The day the eruption begins, Daniel Abe returns to Hilo, where he was raised among the close-knit Japanese American community clustered around a brutal sugarcane plantation. Having overcome the prejudice against "Orientals," Daniel studied and practiced medicine in Chicago for 10 years before his guilt over fatally misdiagnosing a four-year-old patient drives him to return home. His mother, Mariko, died two years ago of cancer, and while living in her bungalow Daniel reconnects with Hilo's residents, including Koji, who drives the plantation's freight train and whose love helped sustain Mariko and Daniel after they were abandoned by Daniel's father; Mama Natua, a matriarch sliding into senility; and Daniel's former girlfriend, Maile, who has returned to Hilo with shame of her own. As the lava flow creeps toward Hilo, the characters cope with their own and others' secrets. Tsukiyama demonstrates a range of descriptive powers, depicting the island's beauty and the oppressive plantation with equal skill. The story's rich interconnections are captured through multiple third-person viewpoints and brief sections that revisit the past. Tsukiyama's rich and beautifully written exploration of the uncertainty of life and the power of community has timeless appeal.