In this epic, original novel in which Hawaii's fierce, sweeping past springs to life, Kiana Davenport, author of the acclaimed Shark Dialogues, draws upon the remarkable stories of her people to create a timeless, passionate tale of love and survival, tragedy and triumph, survival and transcendence.
In spellbinding, sensual prose, Song of the Exile follows the fortunes of the Meahuna family—and the odyssey of one resilient man searching for his soul mate after she is torn from his side by the forces of war. From the turbulent years of World War II through Hawaii's complex journey to statehood, this mesmerizing story presents a cast of richly imagined characters who rise up magnificent and forceful, redeemed by the spiritual power and the awesome beauty of their islands.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Kiana Davenport’s electrifying historical saga follows the relationship between aspiring Hawaiian jazz musician Keo and Korean Hawaiian university student Sunny from the 1930s all the way to the 1960s. As the couple face harrowing obstacles, including discrimination, violence, and even the evils of Nazi Germany, they cling to their dreams and the love that connects them. Davenport’s lyrical writing makes us feel the inspiring power of music, and she also provides a stunning overview of Hawaii’s complex history. An exquisite, poetic love story, Song of the Exile is a haunting and beautiful read.
The devastating effect of WWII on two Hawaiian families pervades this haunting novel that spans three continents and decades. Davenport (Shark Dialogues) traces the stories of Sun-ja Uanoe Sung (Sunny), a Hawaiian/Korean student from an educated family, and Keo, a native jazz musician, who meet and fall in love in Honolulu in the mid-1930s. When Keo (sometimes known as Hula Man) gets a chance to travel with a jazz band, he leaves Sunny for New Orleans and Paris. His reputation as a genius hornblower blossoms as quickly as racist violence darkens Nazi-infested Europe. Sunny escapes her fractured family life in Honolulu and journeys to join Keo in the City of Light. She revolts against the Nazi brutality she finds there, worrying also about the fate of her clubfooted sister, Lili, who was cast out by their father before Sunny was born. Arriving in Shanghai to look for Lili, Sunny is kidnapped and held captive as a "P-girl," servicing Japanese soldiers. Sunny is selected by one officer for proprietary use; her harrowing plight and that of thousands of other women and girls (some prepubescent) are described in searingly graphic detail. After the war, these women (who've aged several decades for every year of captivity) are too traumatized and ashamed to aid the Allies' feeble attempts at prosecution. There seems to be no real recovery from this level of atrocity, and Keo's story cannot equal Sunny's in intensity. After the war, Keo continues to search for Sunny, mourning and playing music. While the novel's nonsequential structure feels disjointed early on, it gains focus and power as Sunny's story unfolds. In the political maneuvering for Hawaii's statehood in 1959, the two families, bearing their emotional and physical scars, find some form of healing. Davenport's prose can verge on the purple, especially when describing Keo's musical artistry, yet overall she tells a powerful tale of love and loss. FYI: Davenport grew up in Honolulu, the daughter of a native Hawaiian whose ancestors were Tahitians, and a U.S. sailor from Alabama.
Song of the Exile
An incredible book. It was not until I read the authors interview at the end that I realized the "comfort girls" of WWII existed. Knowing this made the book more profound and I recognize the courage it took Kiana Davenport to write their story. I found the history of the Hawaiian people deeply moving and have more appreciation for their customs.
So well written
I could feel, smell, hear, touch what Ms Davenport wrote. Growing up Wahiawa Oahu I saw aunties, uncles and our history. Pain, love, glory
Song of Exile
Mesmerizing. Intense. Sad. Void of happiness. Well researched. The destruction from WW II left such pain in its wake and this book will also help you appreciate Jazz in a way you’ve never experienced it. Excellent book.