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Publisher's Summary

In 1995 in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, 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.

©2020 Kawai Strong Washburn (P)2020 Canongate Books Ltd

Critic Reviews

"The novel you never knew you were waiting for." (Marlon James)

"I didn't want it to end." (Sarah Moss)

What listeners say about Sharks in the Time of Saviours

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  • Miss Emily C. Williams
  • 05-05-21

A unique, multi-layered debut novel.

A complex and multi - layered debut novel about a Hawai'ian family who are struggling financially, along with much of their community on Honoka'a following the collapse of the sugar cane industry. In 1995, while on a cruise in Kailua-Kona, a seven-year-old Nainoa Flores falls overboard. He is saved from drowning by a shiver of sharks. His rescue is hailed by his family as a sign of favour from the ancient Hawaiian gods. In time it is expected that Nainoa is destined to become a healer. People flock to him for healing and this benefits them monetarily. The repercussions for the whole Flores family continue to reverberate through the rest of the novel. Over the next 14 years Noa's siblings, Dean and Kaui, feel sidelined by him. As they come of age Noa and his siblings leave behind their home, family and culture and relocate to the continental United States. Noa becomes a paramedic in Portland, struggles to understand his growing abilities. Dean, his elder brotherplays elite colleigate basketball, and Kaui, the younger sister reacts using risk taking behaviour, studies engineering; a punishing acedemic schedule, and waits tables to stay afloat financially. This is a family drama with elements of magical realism drawn from the spirituality and mythology of Hawai'i. Each chapter is narrated by a family member, I generally have learnt to enjoy this type of structure, but I did find that this included jumps in the time line which did get a bit confusing. The novel starts plot driven with the events leading up to Nao’s rescue, which still switches time line and characters perspective, however this becomes the background for the character driven family drama that ensues. I also think that the novel acts as an allegory for the young Hawai'i'an's reclaiming of and awakening to their cultureand land both spiritually and ecologically. Examples of which are in Noa’s gift and Kaui's return home and renewed didication to her homeland.
Kawai Strong Washburn’s writing is unique, lyrical and his love for the traditional culture of Hawai'i shines through.