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Islands of Sweet Pies and Soldiers
By Sara Ackerman

Set in Hawaii after Pearl Harbor, this mystery will let us peek into how war changes everything from the bond of friendships to identifying who the enemy is during such a tumultuous time. If war isn’t enough to manage, Violet’s husband disappeared a year ago. She is struggling to understand why nobody seems to know what happened that night so long ago. Her ten year old daughter, Ella hasn’t been herself since the disappearance. Ella is picking at her skin and having PTSD symptoms. Ella is haunted by what happened but she refuses to share those memories. Violet and her two friends set up a pie stand to earn some extra cash and bring a little home cooking to the soldiers stationed in Hawaii. They will meet some interesting soldiers and a lion named Roscoe before the mystery is solved.

Becky: This novel is based on the stories the author’s grandparents shared during the time they lived in Honokaa, Hawaii during WWII. I found it interesting that the pet lion in this story is factual as well. You can read more about it at http://www.camptarawamcl.com/Roscoe.html. The story is told from two points of view, Violet’s and Ella’s. Did you connect with one of the characters right away?

 

Pam: I connected with both characters in different ways. I connected with Violet, as a mother and a wife. She was struggling after her husband went missing and her young daughter withdrew and began having significant issues at school. I connected with Ella as I learned more about her, her struggles, and ultimately as I discovered the secret that led to her withdrawal. Violet and Ella find some distraction from their family struggles as they meet soldiers training near their home and their mascot, Roscoe the lion. Were you surprised that Ella connected with them so quickly?

Becky: I didn’t expect such a quick connection because she was still searching diligently for her missing husband and it had only been about a year since his disappearance. The novel didn’t provide a deep understanding or development of the characters and this is an example of how that created a gap in the story for me. He wasn’t portrayed as a bad guy, nor was he considered dead so it didn’t make sense for her to move on so quickly. The storyline I enjoyed more was in regard to how the local people of Japanese ancestry were treated. Did you feel like this was an interesting storyline or did the author try to cover too much in this novel?

Pam: There were many different aspects to this story. However, with the time and setting of this story, the treatment of the local Japanese population was an integral part of the tale. This also allowed the reader to get to know the characters better through their relationships and their feelings about the treatment. One of Violet’s closest friends is Setsuko, a Japanese woman that lives in the same village. Setsuko was a support for Violet after her husband disappeared. Violet also supported and fought for Setsuko when her husband was taken away after a local reported he was working with the Japanese to facilitate an attack. Did you find this anti-Japanese sentiment difficult to read about?

Becky: Absolutely, I always find it hard to read about topics that deal with harsh judgment and prejudices. Unfortunately, that is our world but I would rather be informed and educated about our country’s history. Even if it is just lightly touched in the form of a novel. I enjoyed this book and I look forward to what you have chosen for March. What are we going to read next month?

Pam: Next month we will head for the hills when we discuss Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed.