cover image A Better View of Paradise

A Better View of Paradise

Randy Sue Coburn, . . Ballantine, $25 (354pp) ISBN 978-0-345-49036-0

In Coburn's third novel (after Owl Island ), mid-30s landscape architect Stevie Pollack has just fled a failed project in Chicago and a failed relationship in New York to be with Hank, her querulous, dying father, in her Hawaiian hometown. Every turn of events—every argument between father and daughter, every meeting with a lover, every sleepless or dream-filled night—seems to be watched over by the book's most colorful and passionate character, the “swirling wonder” that is the island, whose prophetic creatures and therapeutic beaches add eccentric splendor. Coincidentally, in Chicago, Stevie meets her cousin, Margo, who reveals that Stevie's father has a hidden sister. Reconnecting with Margo gives Stevie the chance to “talk story,” or reminisce, about Hank's family life, giving Stevie some much-needed perspective on her contentious relationship with the old man. As her own icy edge melts in the presence of a lost puppy, an approachable veterinarian named Japhy, childhood friends and a blossoming appreciation for Hawaiian folklore, Stevie becomes an engrossing character who makes up for a predictable plot and a cascade of unlikely coincidences. (July)