I’ve been to Hawaii twice in my life: once in my early 20s, and the other time a family vacation about 5 years ago. And both times I was fortunately to be able to spend some time in Hilo, on the big island. It is absolutely my favorite place on the islands – old school, totally laid back, and very few tourists. I don’t think it changed a whit during the forty-odd years in between my two trips. And that is probably why I enjoyed this book so much.
The Color of Air, set in the late 1930s, follows the lives of a group of Japanese-American residents of the sleepy town of Hilo. The older generation was brought here in the early 20th century to work on the sugar cane plantations, supposedly temporarily, but the younger generation has no intention of going back to the homeland. Some might leave for the bright lights of the big city (Honolulu!) or even the mainland for their education, but they all end up back in Hilo. But shadowing the drama of their daily lives, quite literally, is one of the periodic eruptions of Mauna Loa. Pele takes her time. She may go this way or that, one side of the island or the other, at the relatively slow pace of a mile or so a day, but there is no withstanding her.
For me, though, this book was all about the slices of life, such as the Hilo Aunties’ weekly cutthroat Hearts game during the Saturday afternoon lull at the Okawa Fish Market. If you are in need of some good advice, that’s where you will find it.