A set of 6 short stories that take place in modern Hawaii. The people in each story are different, but all of them depict struggles, sadness, and despair, aiming to dispel the myth that Hawaii is a paradise. These stories showcase the everyday challenges that normal Hawaiians face, even though they may appear to live on an idyllic and perfect tropical island.
“This is Paradise” revolves around the interactions between locals and tourists in Waikiki in Honolulu. A group of local Hawaiian women notice a tourist girl getting involved with a suspicious Hawaiian. Concerned for her safety, they attempt to warn her, but the next day, the tourist girl is found dead on the beach. The local women feel guilty for not warning her more.
“Wanle” tells the story of a mixed-race woman named Wanle, she comes from a family that likes to breed birds to fight each other for money. Wanle witnesses her father’s murder, motivated by a dispute over bird fight betting. She embarks on a journey to avenge her father’s death, training her own birds to defeat the man who killed her father. However, her Indian boyfriend disapproves of her hobby, kicking her out and killing all her birds.
“The Road to Hana” follows a couple on a road trip in Maui. During their journey, they encounter a stray dog on the roadside and the girl insists on trying to rescue it. The guy disagrees and after a while they leave the dog by the side of the road anyway, but their relationship is damaged by the incident.
“Thirty-Nine Rules for Turning a Hawaiian Funeral into a Drinking Game“: a shorter story where a young woman attends her grandmother’s funeral in Kauai. The funeral is attended by hundreds of distant cousins and relatives, who get drunk into the night.
“Portrait of a Good Father” depicts a family where the father, Keaka, enters into an affair with a Korean woman shortly after marrying and having children. The two children from the marriage struggle with feelings of neglect and yearn for their father’s attention. Keaka strives to show love to both sets of children, his wife, and the Korean woman, but everyone is disappointed in him.
“The Old Paniolo Way” is about conflicts within a family between Pili (the son) and Maile (the daughter), as they care for their dying father. The family owns a large ranch with lots of cows on Big Island, but Pili has a successful high-tech career on the mainland and doesn’t often return to visit his family. Most of the responsibility falls on Maile, leading her to become resentful. Pili is also gay and struggles with the fear of disappointing his father and awkwardly reveals his sexual orientation on his father’s deathbed.