Pieces of Blue
Pieces of Blue would be stultifyingly unoriginal even if it took place on Mars, but it does do one thing well – portray what small town life is like on the islands, and show that Hawaii isn’t entirely a lush, exotified paradise. Too bad it chooses to do so not by focusing on a group of island-born residents but a family moving from California.
You’ve seen this plot before, and you’ve read these characters before, even though this is YA novelist Holly Goldberg Sloan’s adult fiction début. The teens are pouty and the youngest child is imaginative, the mom is a Single Mom Who Works too Hard, Loves Her Kids, and Never Stops. She must Struggle Against new Norms and a New Locale while establishing a future for herself and said kids. There is a mysterious and handsome stranger. The locals are supportive and willing to help out, unless they exist for our heroes and heroines to ‘prove’ their ability to stick it out in their new land. There is even a third act hurricane. But that’s getting a little ahead of the plot.
Lindsey Hill reacts to the death of her husband’s drowning during a surfing trip by using the life insurance payout to buy a Hawaiian motel. Their kids, Sena, Carlos, and Olivia are each in differing stages of mourning and differing stages of acceptance of her choice.
Each of them copes with the changes in their lives in different ways. Sena, (aged seven), becomes overly attached to the motel’s flock of chickens and fusses over learning how to care for them. Carlos, (twelve), reinvents himself as skateboarding cool kid Carl to gain popularity. And fourteen-year-old Olivia falls in love with Haku Kalamas, a local kid whose family works at the motel and had designs on buying it; he despises the Hills for interloping. Lindsey, meanwhile, has no idea what the heck she’s doing with the rundown motel until Chris Young, a Philadelphia native, shows up to seek shelter there. He agrees to help her renovate the place in trade for staying at one of the cottages.
Can Chris and Lindsey move on? Will the kids settle in? And what will Lindsey do when she finds out her husband’s death isn’t as cut and dried as she’d thought? And is Chris all that he seems?
Pieces of Blue has some interesting local color woven throughout its pages, but there’s loads of stuff in there that’s just there for the heck of it. Why, for instance, is Lindsey Welsh? It has no bearing on the plot, other than to make a statement about immigrants living the American dream. Everyone else trips down the same proscribed track. Olivia is bitter and doesn’t want her mom to move on. “Carl” is at a loss as he tries to figure out who he is. Sena is filled with romance and faith. The Mau Loa Motel is predictably rundown, and is perhaps more trouble than it’s worth. And Chris is a handsome electrician who can probably reconnect Lindsey’s wires on-demand.
In the final chapters the book turns into a thriller and abruptly becomes extremely tense after a languidly glacial running time. And then said tension ebbs away gently after a ridiculous conclusion, providing easy answers to complicated problems. All I can say is that it’s incredibly noble for one character to do what they do.
Maybe I’m just tired of reading stories about white people trying to make a go of it in Hawaii in stories where native characters assist to help them find themselves but never drive much of the story themselves. Maybe there should be much less snappy answers to the stupid questions that Pieces of Blue poses.
Note: This book contains discussion of attempted suicide, one on-page attempt, and a drug overdose, both of them ludicrous.
Lisa Fernandes is a writer, reviewer and recapper who lives somewhere on the East Coast. Formerly employed by Firefox.org and Next Projection, she also currently contributes to Women Write About Comics. Read her blog at http://thatbouviergirl.blogspot.com/, follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/thatbouviergirl or contribute to her Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/MissyvsEvilDead or her Ko-Fi at ko-fi.com/missmelbouvier
|Review Date:||May 14, 2023|
|Book Type:||Women's Fiction|
Fun note: first person to guess (with spoiler bars!) what the big ludicrous twist at the end of this book contains wins a paper pony.
I have not read this but the pony prize motivated me to make a guess.
That sounds just awful.
It plays even worse because
It’s very noble of him to have no rich interior or exterior life and think this will not traumatize his kids (conveniently it does not). But at least his wife is doubly land/cash rich and can create a shelter for the poor now!