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Shark Dialogues

 
 
 
 
Shark Dialogues
Author: Kiana Davenport
ISBN 13: 9780452274587
ISBN 10: 452274583
Edition: Reprint
Publisher: Plume
Publication Date: 1995-08-01
Format: Paperback
Pages: 512
List Price: $18.00
 
 

Spellbinding in its imagery and ancient myths, Shark Dialogues is the stunningly sensual and visionary epic of a Polynesian Hawaiian family, a story of daring, passionate women and men, their losses and triumphs, their comedies and tragedies, their anguish and joy. Set mainly in contemporary Hawaii, it is a spectacular odyssey through fire and water, a journey that begins in the nineteenth century with the fateful meeting of a Yankee sailor and the runaway daughter of a Tahitian chief. Sweeping from that distant past into the present turbulent decade, Kiana Davenport has woven an astonishing, compassionate portrait of her people, one of personal and political complexities - a surreal and provocative, wise and erotic tale of villains and dreamers, of "stone-eaters" and queens, of revolutionaries, and of lepers and healers. Central to all is the matriarch Pono, a statuesque, pure-blooded Hawaiian, a kahuna, or seer, whose past is shrouded in mystery. Pono's love for Duke Kealoha - a man hidden from the world, a man his daughters and granddaughters have never knownis one of the most haunting love stories of our time, a love that lasts through sixty years, a love so profound she "dares everything, commits every conceivable act for him." As the novel opens, Pono's four granddaughters are converging on her run-down coffee plantation on the Big Island, summoned by Pono in her eighty-fourth year. United by their fear of and devotion to Pono, each woman is of "mixed blood" parentage: Ming - Hawaiian-Chinese, is a lover of art and music, who suffers from lupus; Vanya - Hawaiian-Filipino, is a lawyer and a fiery political activist; Rachel - Hawaiian-Japanese, is a great beauty, obsessed with her Yakuza husband; JessHawaiian-Caucasian, is a veterinarian, whose pale skin makes her "inferior" in Pono's eyes. Never having known their true genealogy "Pono's girls," as they are called, have led tormented, scattered lives. Now, caught up in Pono's spell, feeling a sense of "immi

Publishers Weekly

A sprawling but compelling first novel, Davenport's gargantuan family epic centers on the awe-inspiring Hawaiian matriarch Pono, a prophet gifted with magic powers, and her four estranged, mixed-marriage granddaughters. The book begins in 1834 with Pono's forebears, a shipwrecked Yankee sailor who had resorted to cannibalism, and a runaway Tahitian princess, and covers large chunks of Hawaiian history before ending up on a present-day island coffee plantation. Using flashbacks and detours, the novel chronicles how granddaughters Ming, Vanya, Rachel and Jess reclaim their heritage and achieve reconciliations with Pono, who terrifies them--she can metamorphose into a sea creature and live for days in the ocean--but commands their love and respect. Pono periodically goes on unexplained voyages to visit the girls' grandfather, Duke, a leper deeply ashamed of his putrefying limbs. A digression describes the history of the disease and treatment of its victims. Other sections evoke life on a 19th-century whaler, and offer a history of Hawaii's labor-union movement, the story of a drug-addicted Vietnam vet and cameo appearances of such real-life figures as Queen Lil'uokalani and F.D.R. Between wars, plagues, uprisings and earthquakes the book has a surfeit of events, but for the most part Davenport juggles the elements admirably as she moves from Hawaiian rain forests to downtown Manhattan, slipping easily from the fantastic to the actual. Breathtaking images studded throughout the densely poetic descriptive passages more than compensate for the occasional clumsy effort at stream-of-consciousness writing. Author tour. (May)