Shark Dialogues

Kiana Davenport, Author, Lee Goerner, Editor Scribner Book Company $22 (512p) ISBN 978-0-689-12191-3
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)
Reviewed on: 05/02/1994
Release date: 05/01/1994
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 512 pages - 978-0-452-29768-5
Ebook - 512 pages - 978-1-4391-9243-6
Paperback - 512 pages - 978-0-452-27458-7
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