cover image Under the Wave at Waimea

Under the Wave at Waimea

Paul Theroux. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $28 (416p) ISBN 978-0-358-44628-6

In Theroux’s immersive surfing bildungsroman (after Mother Land), a 60-something Triple Crown legend accidentally kills a homeless man with his car, and looks back on his life. Ten-year-old Joe Sharkey arrives in Hawaii with his father, a Special Forces colonel stationed there during the Vietnam War. Bullied at school for being a “haole,” Sharkey finds release in surfing, his mentor a native Hawaiian surf guru called Uncle Sunshine. Showing an early aptitude for the sport, he becomes a competitive surfer. Sponsorship, prize money and endorsements follow as Sharkey travels the world—Tahiti, South Africa, California, Portugal—in search of the ultimate wave. Along the way, women are drawn to his legendary status and he befriends gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson. Meanwhile, in the present, Sharkey and his girlfriend embark on a journey to learn more about the man Sharkey accidentally killed, traveling to Arkansas and California before a final reckoning in Hawaii’s Waimea Bay. The past and present halves of the story don’t really coalesce, but Sharkey makes for an enjoyably larger than life character in the mold of Theroux’s Jack Flowers (Saint Jack) or Allie Fox (The Mosquito Coast). The author’s fans will appreciate the perfectly rendered exotic setting, which takes the reader deep inside the Hawaiian surf culture. (Apr.)