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East Wind, Rain: A Novel

East Wind, Rain: A Novel

3.8 11
by Caroline Paul

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From the New York Times bestselling author of The Gutsy Girl comes this provocative, compelling novel of irrevocable consequences for people thrust unwittingly into a devastating war of nations and American identity—based on a little-known true event.

December 1941. The inhabitants of Niihau lead a simple life. Mostly Hawaiian natives


From the New York Times bestselling author of The Gutsy Girl comes this provocative, compelling novel of irrevocable consequences for people thrust unwittingly into a devastating war of nations and American identity—based on a little-known true event.

December 1941. The inhabitants of Niihau lead a simple life. Mostly Hawaiian natives, they work the ranch of Niihau's eccentric haole owner, who keeps his island totally isolated from the outside world, devoid of cars, phones, and electricity. But then a plane crash-lands there, and although the villagers rescue the pilot, they have no idea that he has just attacked Pearl Harbor. War has now come to Eden, slowly undoing its tranquillity, widening the cracks in the already troubled marriage of Irene and Yoshio Harada, the island's only Japanese-American couple. It will test everyone's loyalties and all they believe in . . . as Paradise, once within reach, slowly falls victim to its own isolated innocence.

Editorial Reviews

Hanna Rubin
Paul's graceful, objective tone may be the book's greatest strength. The author of Fighting Fire, an acclaimed memoir of her stint as a San Francisco firefighter, she is at her best describing the sheer physical sensation of being on the island. Sunsets, heat and dust are rendered in tactile detail. The island becomes a force in its own right.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
In the wake of Pearl Harbor, an isolated Hawaiian community realizes new fears and questions old loyalties in this novel based on actual events. A lone fighter plane plummets into the secluded island of Niihau, owned by white American Alymer Robinson, on December 7, 1941. Howard Kaleohano, the village elder, spots the downed aircraft and urges its Japanese pilot, Nishikaichi, out of the cockpit. Since the villagers don't have radios and haven't heard of the bombing (or even the war), they don't know what to make of Nishikaichi. Howard decides they should simply wait for Robinson, the island's owner, to arrive. When he doesn't show, Robinson's beekeeper, Yoshio Harada, and Harada's wife, Irene, both Japanese-Americans, are the only islanders who can understand Nishikaichi's account of Pearl Harbor and his own mission, as well as his plans: he's not significantly injured, and intends to destroy his plane and the papers he carried with him. As the young couple wrestles with a sense of U.S. patriotism that has been wounded by past encounters with prejudice, suspicions overwhelm a once peaceful community. Paul (whose twin sister is Baywatch star Alexandra Paul) wrote a memoir, Fighting Fire, about her time as a San Francisco firefighter; her debut novel moves slowly, but with a lyricism that contributes to her characters' development. It's a promising performance. (On sale Mar. 14) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Is ignorance really bliss? Memoirist Paul (Fighting Fire, 1998) seeks to answer that age-old question in her fiction debut, based on a true story. With no newspapers, phones, electricity or transportation system, the private Hawaiian island of Niihau is the last vestige of isolation in the American Pacific. But on Dec. 7, 1941, this world is invaded-not by the bombs that kill thousands on the neighboring island of Oahu, but by a Japanese pilot who lands his fighter plane on Niihau, thinking it uninhabited. Living in this bizarre fiefdom governed by harshly pious owner Aylmer Robinson, the Niihauans are unaware of anything happening off-island, including the world war that has erupted around them. A Japanese-American couple, ranch foreman Yoshio Harada and his wife Irene are the only inhabitants who speak the pilot's language, hence the only ones who understand the implications of his presence. But because the pilot assumes that the islanders know about the war, he gives the Haradas false warnings about future attacks on Hawaii. This causes the couple to question their identities as Americans, as Japanese and as residents of Niihau. For a week, the island's peace is disturbed, and the story becomes a microcosm of the war itself. Issues related to race, nationalism, the place of Hawaii in America and the place of America in the world become central to the way the community deals with its strange visitor. Paul offers a refreshing and interesting vantage point from which readers may reconsider this episode in history. But while she does an excellent job of bringing complex questions to the forefront, her characters often seem stereotypical, even robotic, as they contemplate answers. Flawedallegory of the issues underlying America's role in WWII.
Associated Press
“Tackles the complex issue of national allegiance […] EAST WIND, RAIN, which is based on an actual event, rarely disappoints.”
Associated Press Staff
“Tackles the complex issue of national allegiance […] EAST WIND, RAIN, which is based on an actual event, rarely disappoints.”
“Authentic and dramatic.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“With fluid, often lyrical prose, Paul succeeds at creating a novel that’s authentic and at times artful.”
New York Times Book Review
“Paul’s graceful, objective tone may be the book’s greatest strength . . .When it’s over, we don’t want to leave.”

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HarperCollins Publishers
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East Wind, Rain

A Novel
By Caroline Paul

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright ©2006 Caroline Paul
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060780754

Chapter One

When the plane finally crashed, onto the dry, rutted grass and into a fence, it did so with a hiss and a sigh. There was no outcry or fuss. No boom, or bang, or screeching rent of steel. It crashed as if it were already part of the midday sounds of that desolate island, the soughing wind across the scrub, the low snuffle of the surf. It sliced perfectly through the glancing, metallic sunlight. It skittered like scree through the red dirt. It came to rest, crooked as a tree.

As if in deference to the quiet island, it crashed with gracious aplomb; a long, low exhalation, right into the ground.

Two miles away Yoshio Harada sat in a small wooden chair and looked out a window. His wife had scissors in one hand; with the other she bent back an ear. Pieces of his hair fell noiselessly to the floor, wending their way down like small, winged insects. From where he sat he could see the back of the bee shed, and to the right the rise of the brown land. Above that a bleached, cloudless sky. It was only morning, but his face was slick with sweat; every now and then he blinked away its sting from his eyes. All the windows and doors had been pushed, canted, or propped open before they'd sat down, but the breeze they soughtcarried only heat and hardy, finger-sized flies -- shiny, black-bodied athletes undaunted by anything but gale-force winds. And there was the dust. Even now he could see it, stars hovering in the slant of light by the sill, falling with his hair. In the two years they had been here, this is what he knew his wife resented the most, the way the land rose up to mock her in tiny red particles of itself, caking the corners of her eyes, coating the kitchen table and the insides of their child's mouth. Let's go back to Kauai, she'd plead. Or somewhere. Soon. But Yoshio had taken to the dry, harsh landscape and its leaden heat.

Suddenly the scissors stopped. Yoshio straightened and lifted one hand to run it through his black hair. He decided against it; she hadn't moved to look at him head-on, as she usually did, appraising her work with that stern, hard stare. He imagined how silly he looked then, with that band of newly exposed skin like a long white chalk mark around his head.

-Irene, kachan, am I handsome enough for you yet? He wanted to look at her, but she was still behind him.

-Shhtt, she said suddenly. Did you hear that?

-I only hear the sound of my nap calling me.

-I heard something.

Yoshio, sensing that she was serious, listened. He knew all the sounds of this dry, creaking island. It was a habit of his, from back in the days when he had to be more careful than he needed to be now, to keep an ear open, so even now he would stop his horse suddenly, or straighten while checking a beehive, and listen for no apparent reason at all. The smell of her sweat drifted to his nose. He wanted to reach for her hand. He heard nothing out of the ordinary.

-Perhaps Mr. Robinson is back early. He tried to laugh lightly. He laid his hand on his own shoulder in case she wanted to clasp it. Or church is letting out in Puuwai. All those Christians rushing for the dead pig.

She didn't move for his fingers even as he briefly waggled them. They bounced like lonely anenome on a white seafloor, up, down, around. Still, no touch from her own small hand. Instead the floorboard coughed as she shifted uneasily.

-Wild pig, maybe, he continued. He could feel her fingers stiff against his neck, and he knew that her back had straightened and that her mouth was set hard in a line. They're getting as big as the men here, and not nearly as nice. Mr. Kaleohano said one tried to take his cigarette recently.

When she didn't laugh he said, Sweet, and half turned and reached for her wrist, but she stepped away. He dropped his arm on his lap and clasped his palms together, squeezing tighter than he meant to.

-When we're done, he said, I'll check the fences.

She didn't answer, so he repeated himself and noted she glanced at him distractedly, as if she'd just remembered he was there.

-Yes, okay, she said.

-Are we done, by the way? Do I look like Mr. Clark Gable?

She laid the scissors down on the kitchen table and flapped at the errant hair on his shoulders. He could see each black sliver rise like a moon into the air to meet the invisible, inevitable silt before fluttering silently to the floor. She listened one more time, her cupped hand poised at his neck.

Finally she shrugged.

-Perhaps it was a pig, she said. But she glanced out the window and frowned.

The plane lay still. It was hard to believe that its final seconds had been so wondrous. In another circumstance such a nebula of sparks could have birthed a galaxy. But that was then; once they burned themselves out, there was only utter quiet, as if the place the plane had carved through time and space and dirt was a momentary void in the world. Above, a mynah bird circled clumsily and stared, incredulous to find a plane where her favorite fence post should be. On this driest Hawaiian island, there were no lush trees or balloon-size leaves to cover the wreckage; the vertebrae and fibulae and phalanges of metal lay exposed to the sky, as if angry grave robbers had recently looted. There was the propeller, twisted and grotesque like some huge and evil flower. Farther away, a tire, thrown beyond the kiawe tree. The pilot was slumped and unmoving, with one of his arms thrust . . .


Excerpted from East Wind, Rain by Caroline Paul Copyright ©2006 by Caroline Paul. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Caroline Paul is the author of Fighting Fire, a memoir of her time as a firefighter in San Francisco, where she still lives. This is her first novel.

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East Wind, Rain 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
JMCaraballo More than 1 year ago
In Caroline Paul’s “East Wind, Rain” A young couple, of Japanese descent, struggle to be accepted as American citizens during a time when Japan and America were in great conflict resulting in the bombing of Pearl Harbor. A small isolated island near Hawaii’s Pearl Harbor becomes part of the war when one of Japans fighter planes crash lands. On this island, the occupants are devout Christians. The owner Mr. Robinson is described as an eccentric, very religious man and has kept them shut off from the rest of the world, believing that he is protecting them from sin. This contributes greatly to the overall plot and outcome of the story. The Japanese couple, Yoshi and his wife Irene are the main characters of the book and come to a cross road in their life when they have to choose between defending this stranded pilot that comes from the country in which they are forever attached, or being faithful to their new way of life and to the people that they are so desperately trying to be a part of. The society they live in, although cut off from the rest of the world, still see them as a type of minority because of their cultural background. The couple, themselves are having problems within their own marital relationship because the Yoshi wants the wife to embrace their new life. I think them keeping this secret of who the Japanese’ pilot really is from their neighbors, and why he has crashed onto the island has actually brought them closer together. They know that they are still not welcome as Americans, but had they been on the island of Oahu during Pearl Harbor it may have been even worse for them and their child. The cliff hanger throughout the story is whether or not they can be treated as friends and fellow Americans when the other islanders find out that they haven’t shared the information of the bombing. Although the storyline itself is almost a spin-off of the major conflict which is the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the author stays true to the story of the island of Niihau and doesn’t give to many details of the War itself which was a reality to the islanders there. Most of the story is the main character deciding where his true alliance lies. He seems to have flashbacks of an incident that happened in California where he was beaten and called a “yellow sissy”, throughout the book he talks about regaining his pride as a man because of that event. At the end, he chooses to do what his wife thinks is right for their family as she manipulates him to turn his back on his own want to be accepted. When he dies, he still hasn’t achieved that, and it left me feeling sad for him, wishing that he had at least lived. As for the young Pilot, this story began because he veered his plane toward the Island to make a crash landing instead of doing what he was trained to do, and crash into the ocean. He saved himself because of a woman he fell in love with before leaving Japan. In both instances, these men both died for the love of a women which the pilot never had, and Yoshi only felt in the last moments of his life. Like the plane after it crashed on Niihau, there was a lot of pieces to the story but it was hard to rummage through them until the end of the story. As a researched articles and other books on the subject of Japanese “born in California” and the racism issue during the migration from Japan to Hawaii, I have been opened up to a part of our history I didn’t even know existed. Caroline Paul’s story is one millions involving the treatment of Japanese in our country that was active in our history before and after Pearl Harbor.
Guest More than 1 year ago
What a pleasure to pick up a book that tells about a historical incident at home of which I knew nothing - the crashlanding of a Japanese fighter pilot on the Hawaiian island of Niihau on December 7, 1941. I've lived in Hawaii almost all my life but somehow missed this. The privately owned - to this day - Niihau is often called the Forbidden Island, as it has been kept isolated and out of the mainstream of modern life. While this incident is documented, not much real information is available, particularly on how the people of Niihau reacted, which allowed Caroline Paul to embroider between the facts in the best tradition of historical fiction. The 130 residents of the island were mostly native Hawaiians plus three Japanese Americans. Hawaiian was the spoken language few knew English. With no radios, no phones and no newspapers, nobody knew about the bombing of Pearl Harbor except for the one Japanese couple who had a hidden radio in their home. Suddenly and tragically they began to question their loyalties. Reminiscent of The Gods are Crazy, in which an empty Coca Cola bottle falls out of an airplace into the lives of isolated and incredulous African bushmen, the Niihauans simply don't know what to make of the Zero fighter plane or the scared but uninjured young Japanese pilot. Their speculations are earnest, creative and touching. What astonished me the most was that Paul, who from information avaiable on her website leads a life of extreme physical adventures, was able to hunker down and imagine the quiet subtleties of Niihau. In a place where life drones on amid dust, heat and boredom, even the smallest events are noticed and important in the soft rhythm of that tiny island's life. Imagine, then, the impact of an enemy fighter pilot crashing in their midst! Only the three Japanese can communicate with him, as they clumsily dredge up the language of their parents. The parallels between the Niihauans and the pilot are telling. All have been cared for and indoctrinated by authority figures - the Robinson famly who have owned Niihau for generations, and the Naval Air Force of Japan. When each was faced with this astounding turn of events, none had any experience in thinking for themselves. The pilot was as baffled and frightened as the folks he dropped in on. Paul did a masterful job of imagining things through various points of view, most noteably because the various Niihauans all had dramatically different takes on the situation. Fascinating! And where was Mr. Robinson, the man they all relied on to make their decisions and come to their resuce during all this? He was on Kauai, preparing for a Japanese invasion of that island, and casually wondering if his brother had been right years earlier when he suggested they set up a system of carrier pigeons to carry messages back and forth from Niihau! I loved this book and heartily recommend it to all who love Hawaii, who are fascinated by neglected quirks of history, and who enjoy an elegantly crafted story. It also resonates frighteningly with what is going on today as we see young terrorists volunteering to blow themselves up for the glory of their beliefs. Not so different from the Japanese bomber pilots who faced death willingly for the glory of the Emperor and their families.
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