Sharks in the Time of Saviours by Kawai Strong Washburn

Sharks in the Time of Saviours

Kawai Strong Washburn

I was blown away by this strong debut. By the language, the description of the stark nature of Hawaii, the people in it. Noa, touched by the Gods according to his mother but suffering for it. Brother Dean, the basketballstar and sister Kaui, ambitious student. Their wish to become someone, to be loved for who they are. But life is throwing them a curveball. Stunning reading.

Extract

And money was the name of that god, and it was the sort of god that preyed on you, made demands and laid its hands on you with such force as to make the Old Testament piss its pants.
We were made, eventually, to pray to it, whether we wanted to or not. Your father and I still pray to it now.
Take language. `Ōlelo Hawai’i, which was not written, only passed from one mouth to the next, less letters than the English that soon roared over it, and yet it contained more mana of Hawai’i than anything that foreign tongue could twist itself into. What do you do when pono, a healing word, a power word—a word that is emotions and relationships and objects and the past and the present and the future, a thousand prayers all at once, worth eighty-three of the words from the English (righteousness, morality, prosperity, excellence, assets, carefulness, resources, fortune, necessity, hope, and on and on)—is outlawed? When our language, `Ōlelo Hawai’i, was outlawed, so our gods went, so prayers went, so ideas went, so the island went.
Take you, my son. You are not a god, but there is something that moves through you that may be one. Does it revive what came before, or build something new? I can't say.

Parallels
  • There There by Tommy Orange
  • Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton
  • Whale Rider - the film

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