“These are the last minutes of Charlie Kaleohano’s life,” opens Brian Reeves’ 310-page self published novel, swiftly drawing readers into a Hawaii in turmoil. The native Hawaiian independence movement has gained steam, but not without a price, a Waikiki hotel bombing and the assassination of a government official sparking conflicts and driving the islands into recession.
“A Chant of Love and Lamentation,” released in December, is now in the running for the 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, chosen by a panel of judges from a field of over 5,000 entries. Reeves is a finalist in the General Fiction Category.
Reeves (@readbrianreeves on Twitter) is a writer and English instructor in Portland, Oregon, who says he has “a particular interest in Hawaii and the Caribbean.” He says he first got the idea for the book almost a decade ago, and had rewritten the ending at least three times. But now his work is paying off.
“I’ll be traveling to Seattle, WA in mid-June for their awards ceremony where they will reveal which of the three books in my category will be the winner, taking home a $15,000 advance and publication,” Reeves wrote on Reddit, where he asked for support in the form of online votes. “The competition is pretty good so I can use all the help I can get.”
Voting requires an Amazon account. The winner will be announced June 16.
Amazon judges Linda Fairstein, Donald Maass, Anne Sowards were impressed with Reeves’ writing.
“Forget the tropical paradise image of Waikiki beach and think instead of modern terrorist tactics set in motion in the first chapter, as Charlie Kaleohano makes his way to the first targeted site,” Fairstein writes. Meanwhile, Maass opines, “Readers looking for an antidote to Michener’s romanticized epic Hawaii will find it in this politically charged novel.”
Publisher’s Weekly, the reviewing sponsor of the ABNA, also praised the book:
This well-developed work imagines a Hawaii in the aftermath of an act of home-grown terrorism. Meaning to shed light on their cause, returning Hawaii to Hawaiians, the state’s secessionist movement takes the extreme tack of bombing a tourist hotel on Waikiki. The impacts, more far-reaching than the bomber had imagined, unfolds through the stories of three characters… The intertwining of stories is effective, providing a fully developed view of the consequences set in motion by the hotel bombing, and the narrative is cohesive, believable, and well worth a reader’s time.
I’m usually glad for any depiction of Hawaii that runs counter to the stereotypical postcard presentation, but I’d be curious to see how long-time Hawaii residents, and native Hawaiians in particular, would respond to Reeves’ novel. Still, it’s a compelling premise, and my own failed fiction efforts (like NaNoWriMo) have often centered on a post-apocalyptic or post-independence Hawaii. He definitely gets my respect for actually finishing and publishing a book.
One reader found Reeves’ perspective to be a compelling and helpful one.
“I have just returned from my third visit to Hawaii: the first two times were as a tourist, this third visit was through the work of Brian Reeves’ book,” Leeann writes on Amazon. “It was far more fulfilling and I came away with a greater appreciation of the culture, the politics, the history, and the struggles of the native Hawaiian people. It is clear that Reeves has knowledge, experience, and deep respect for the Hawaiian land and people.”