The Last Aloha, by Gaellen Quinn, is the story of Hawaii’s last queen, Queen Liliuokalani, and the power brokers that brought her kingdom to its knees so it could become part of the United States. This is a story most people don’t know. King Kalakaua, the last king and Liliuokalanai’s brother, could read and write, as could almost all his people. He was received with royal honors in the courts of Europe. Liliuokalani became queen upon his death, but the Caucasian growers already had usurped much of the ruling power.
The Last Aloha is told from the point of view of Laura, a fictional character from San Francisco who comes to live with her aunt and uncle in Honolulu. Her uncle is involved with the political party to overthrow the monarchy. Laura makes friends with Liliuokalani and goes to work in her household. From Laura we learn what living in this island paradise would have been like under the last days of the monarchy. The natural glory of the islands, the spirit of the people, and the greed of the plantation owners combine to make a compelling, rich story. Laura’s character is exactly the kind of character needed to tell the stories of women like Queen Liliuokalani, a famous woman with a little-known role in history. Laura also tells the experiences of a score of Caucasian missionaries and their families who changed Hawaii’s destiny.
My own novel, The Aloha Spirit, seeks to convey the spirit of aloha so present in Quinn’s Hawaii. As Quinn says, “There are powers apart from political and material powers that can restore the human spirit in a turbulent world.” Through the interactions of well-developed characters in the book, a reader can begin to experience these powers without a visit to the islands.
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