A powerful debut novel that delicately blends Hawaiian myth with the broken American dream, this is an engrossing family saga and a story of exile and the pursuit of salvation
‘The novel you never knew you were waiting for’ Marlon James
‘As vivid as it is splendid’ New York Times
‘I didn’t want it to end’ Sarah Moss
In 1995 in Kailua-Kona, Hawai‘i, seven-year-old Nainoa Flores is saved from drowning by a shiver of sharks. His family, struggling to make ends meet amidst the collapse of the sugar cane industry, hails his rescue as a sign of favour from ancient Hawaiian gods.
But as time passes, this hope gives way to economic realities, forcing Nainoa and his siblings to seek salvation across the continental United States, leaving behind home and family.
With a profound command of language, Washburn’s powerful debut novel examines what it means to be both of a place, and a stranger in it.
“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
”Sharks in the Time of Saviours is a story of trauma passed down through the generations, of how poverty, grief, and broken dreams weave their way through the lives of one family. Yet it is a story told with joy, even humour, in lyrical, hypnotic prose that will stay with you long after you turn the last page”
Tahmima Anam, Author Of The Bones Of Grace
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.