Sharks in the Time of Saviours by Kawai Strong Washburn

‘When I close my eyes we are all still alive and it becomes obvious then what the gods want from us.’

In Hawai’i in 1994, seven-year-old Nainoa Flores falls from a cruise ship.  He is rescued by a shark, and gently delivered to his mother.  This event marks the beginning of an incredible family journey. The story unfolds across four parts, is told over fourteen years and involves success, failure, and family rivalry. There are five narrators: Malia (the mother), siblings Nainoa, Dean and Kaui, and their father Augie. Expectations of Nainoa are great, living up to them is not easy.  Each of the children leave Hawai’i: partly in pursuit of their dreams, partly to escape their reality.  Can any of them find happiness outside Hawai’i?

It took me a little while to fall in with the rhythm of this story, to appreciate the part Hawai’i has to play as Nainoa’s life unfolds.  While some aspects of the magic don’t work for me, the beauty in the storytelling kept me engaged.  I finished the novel wanting more.

‘He never left us.’

Note: My thanks to Better Reading for a copy of this novel.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith