A powerful debut novel that blends Hawaiian myth with the broken American dream
‘As vivid as it is splendid’ New York Times
‘Beautifully written and completely absorbing’ Sarah Moss, Guardian
A BARACK OBAMA BOOK OF THE YEAR, 2020
WINNER OF THE PEN AMERICA LITERARY AWARD FOR DEBUT NOVEL
A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR in the NEW YORK TIMES, GUARDIAN, IRISH TIMES, OPRAH MAGAZINE and BBC CULTURE
At seven years old, Nainoa falls into the sea and a shark takes him in its jaws – only to return him, unharmed, to his parents. For the next thirty years Noa and his siblings struggle with life in the shadow of this miracle.
Sharks in the Time of Saviours is a brilliantly original and inventive novel, the sweeping story of a family living in poverty among the remnants of Hawai‘i’s mythic past and the wreckage of the American dream.
“The novel you never knew you were waiting for. Old myths clash with new realities, love is in a ride or die with grief, faith rubs hard against magic, and comic flips with tragic so much they meld into something new. All told with daredevil lyricism to burn. A ferocious debut”
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”Sharks in the Time of Saviours is a brilliant novel and one of the most engaging and memorable books I’ve read this year. Sentences sparkle, the narrative voices remain distinctive and complete, and the deep notes of magic sound under the realism of poverty and loss. I didn’t want it to end”
“As vivid as it is splendid … This may be his debut, but he proves himself an old hand at dissecting the ways in which places – our connections to them, our disconnections from them – break us and remake us … With prose that can be breathy and sweaty in one paragraph before gliding softly and tenderly into the next, this passionate writer cries out for us to see Hawaii in its totality: as a place of proud ancestors and gods and spirits, but also of crumbling families and hopelessness and poverty. Of mystery and beauty at every corner”
new York Times
”Sharks in the Time of Saviours bursts with life. It is bright and beautifully noisy. It’s so good it hurts and hurts to where it heals. It is revelatory and unputdownable. Washburn is an extraordinarily brilliant new talent. This family saga is shark tooth sharp. Its pages shoot off crackles and sparks, and you come out of it changed. It is sublime”
Tommy Orange, Author Of There, There
“Adjusted my understanding of the world … Beautifully written and completely absorbing”
Kawai Strong Washburn was born and raised on the Hamakua coast of the Big Island of Hawai‘i. His work has appeared in McSweeney’s, Electric Literature and The Best American Nonrequired Reading, among others. He has received scholarships from the Tin House and Bread Loaf writer’s workshops and has worked in software and as a climate policy advocate. He lives in Minneapolis with his wife and daughters. Sharks in the Time of Saviours is his first novel. It won the 2021 PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Novel.