Book Review – THIS IS PARADISE by Kristiana Kahakauwila

Today Booklover Book Reviews is hosting the TLC Book Tour for the recently released story collection This is Paradise by Kristiana Kahakauwila.

This Is Paradise by Kristiana KahakauwilaSynopsis

Elegant, brutal, and profound—this magnificent debut captures the grit and glory of modern Hawai’i with breathtaking force and accuracy.

In a stunning collection that announces the arrival of an incredible talent, Kristiana Kahakauwila travels the islands of Hawai’i, making the fabled place her own. Exploring the deep tensions between local and tourist, tradition and expectation, façade and authentic self, This Is Paradise provides an unforgettable portrait of life as it’s truly being lived on Maui, Oahu, Kaua’i and the Big Island.

In the gut-punch of “Wanle,” a beautiful and tough young woman wants nothing more than to follow in her father’s footsteps as a legendary cockfighter. With striking versatility, the title story employs a chorus of voices — the women of Waikiki — to tell the tale of a young tourist drawn to the darker side of the city’s nightlife. “The Old Paniolo Way” limns the difficult nature of legacy and inheritance when a patriarch tries to settle the affairs of his farm before his death.

Exquisitely written and bursting with sharply observed detail, Kahakauwila’s stories remind us of the powerful desire to belong, to put down roots, and to have a place to call home. (Amazon)


This is Paradise is not your typical short story collection, in fact of the six titles within in this collection, most are closer to novellas. The stories are fully formed and multi-layered and the characters sensitively realised.

There is nothing superficial about Kahakauwila’s choice of subject matter either – the general theme is that of personal identity and the challenges of family life. This theme is explored through the lens of a society struggling to find the right balance between the old ways and the new; a society where the shiny tourist facade belies a darker underbelly of dispossession and resentment.

“Everyone talks about aloha here, but it’s like Hawaiians are all pissed off. They live in paradise. What is there to be mad about?”

It is worth pointing out that some may find the subject matter within This is Paradise disturbing – for example I struggled with the cockfighting.

Kahakauwila’s prose exudes a sense of economy and understatement that only serves to heighten its impact. These are stories whose depth and gravity creep on you as you become immersed in them.

What really struck me about this new author’s voice is that despite portraying great compassion for her characters there is a refreshing lack of judgement of their actions – c’est la vie.

Given the struggles experienced by the characters within it, This is Paradise by Kristiana Kahakauwila is haunting and reflective rather than uplifting, but it is undeniably moving and with obvious literary merit.

BOOK RATING: The Story 4 / 5 ; The Writing 4 / 5

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Have you read This is Paradise? Do you want to?

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Thanks to TLC Book Tours and Hogarth I have a paperback copy of This is Paradise to giveaway, (US only) – ENTER NOW

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Be sure to check out the other tour stops on this TLC Book Tour.

BOOK DETAILS: This is Paradise by Kristiana Kahakauwila ( Amazon| Indiebound | Booktopia | Kobobooks )

Genre: Drama, Literature, Short Stories

Author Information: Kristiana Kahakauwila, a native Hawaiian, was raised in Southern California. She earned a master’s in fine arts from the University of Michigan and a bachelor’s degree in comparative literature from Princeton University.

She has worked as a writer and editor for Wine Spectator, Cigar Aficionado, and Highlights for Children magazines and taught English at Chaminade University in Honolulu. An assistant professor of creative writing at Western Washington University, Kristiana splits her time between Bellingham, WA, and Hawai`i.

– Check out Kristiana’s website

Other reviews of This is Paradise: Publishers Weekly; Kirkus Reviews; And a Little Wine

* My receiving a copy of this book free for review purposes did not impact my ability to express my honest opinions on this title.