Those who have visited Hawaii know that it has earned its status as a gorgeous place. However, outside of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the recent history of Hawaii is not something that comes up very often for mainlanders. This book provides an enjoyable lesson on the subject.
Sarah Vowell's oddball style of reporting is on display here as she broadly covers the history of Hawaii from the time the first Europeans stumbled upon it. She discusses some of the ancient culture and the clashes with the first missionaries to descend upon the islands from New England. The book culminates with a telling of how Hawaii was annexed to the United States through a joint resolution, since an annexation treaty failed to pass Congress after vehement protests by native Hawaiians.
There are admittedly some problems with this book in regard to the writing. At times, sentences seem to drift off and loop back around on themselves. There is also a hefty serving of fragmentary writing, and the transitions are not always easy to follow. However, if you stick with it, there is enough humor and insight to keep you entertained while learning something as well.
This book will probably not satisfy die-hard historians or those with very strong opinions on Hawaii's changes over the years. However, for the casual reader it's a great way to learn some of the history of this beautiful land, though it wasn't always a beautiful story. Some may not like the message, but it's a tale that needs to be told. In truth, this book made me feel plenty guilty for having been to Hawaii many times and not considering the steps it took for me to get there without a passport. I'm looking forward to another trip where I can investigate some of the sites mentioned in the book.
In summary, while Vowell's views on this subject are pretty obvious, she presents both sides of the annexation of Hawaii in manner that is rarely found in such an accessible book. While there are some problems with the readibility, these are outweighed by the humor and the plainspoken delivery of an often overlooked story.