Ask a Bookseller: 'Sharks in the Time of Saviors'

A masterwork of magical realism with a Minnesota connection

"Sharks in the Time of Saviors" by Kawai Strong Washburn
"Sharks in the Time of Saviors" by Kawai Strong Washburn
Courtesy of Macmillan Publishers

Bookseller Christine Reed of Basically Books in Hilo, Hawaii recommends a debut novel by Kawai Strong Washburn called “Sharks in the Time of Saviors.” Washburn grew up in Hawaii and now lives in Minneapolis.  

Set in Hawaii beginning in 1995, the story opens with a miraculous event: seven-year-old Nainoa Flores falls overboard into shark-infested waters — and is rescued by a shark. His family takes the rescue as a sign that he is blessed by the ancient Hawaiian gods.  

The multiple viewpoint story blends the mundane and the mystical as it follows the family through their struggle to adjust to changing times. Reed says the novel addresses many of the contemporary social issues and struggles that are a part of the fabric of life for people who live in Hawaii and those who have moved away.

Reed sums the novel up this way: “The language is lyrical, the characters are unforgettable, and their struggles and triumphs and, ultimately, their love are poignant. It captures much of the essence of these islands, and I couldn’t put it down.” 

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