This is Paradise is a slim collection of short stories--well, stories and one novella. Each is set in Hawai'i, but the title belies the setting; this is not your touristy, resorty Hawai'i (not that I have anything against that--I've never been, but would love to visit with an unlimited budget and do the pampered guest thing in full style). This is the Hawai'i of people who have lived there for generations, who speak a kind of pidgin English, who have a decidedly not-fond point-of-view of the tourists and the luxury-seeking types who continue to build up the islands.
Author Kahakauwila is a beautiful writer, and she makes this world so vivid and clear, it's as if I'm there, and yet it's a foreign country to me. Which is what I loved about it.
She also takes some narrative risks. The title story is told from multiple peoples' viewpoints, but always first person plural. Yet it works: groups of native Hawaiians speak collectively as the follow the adventures of a young tourist who is out of her depth.
Another story, "Thirty-Nine Rules for Making a Hawaiian Funeral into a Drinking Game," unfortunately doesn't quite overcome its cutesy structure. A more straightforward telling of the funeral would have been better.
But "Wanle," the story of a young woman striving to become a topnotch cockfighter in order to avenge the death of her father (also a cockfighter), and "Portrait of a Good Father," with its very flawed father who does, in spite of his many failures, turns out to be a good father in his own way, are spectacular. The novella, "The Old Paniolo Way," is a lovely look at a cattle ranch and the family who owns it as the patriarch is dying and his offspring are struggling to figure out how to manage their new roles.
Something else I liked about this book is the frequent use of terms like "paniolo". They're dropped in organically, yet even though there was no glossary, I could nearly always figure out the meaning from the context. It's a good use of a non-English language to add color without alienating readers.
So, yeah, overall, I loved this one. I'm definitely keeping my eye out for her next work.