The Last Paradise

The Last Paradise

by James D. Houston
     
 

The time is 1986. Travis Doyle, a restless Vietnam veteran now working as an insurance claims adjuster in the Bay Area, is dispatched to Hawai'i to investigate fire damage at a geothermal drilling site located in volcanic lava fields. The last thing he expects is to confront the mystery of an ancient spirituality and an indigenous world view that tests and challenges… See more details below

Overview

The time is 1986. Travis Doyle, a restless Vietnam veteran now working as an insurance claims adjuster in the Bay Area, is dispatched to Hawai'i to investigate fire damage at a geothermal drilling site located in volcanic lava fields. The last thing he expects is to confront the mystery of an ancient spirituality and an indigenous world view that tests and challenges his own. On the Big Island he encounters a former lover, Evangeline Sakai, a mixed-blood woman who, after many years away, has returned hoping to reconnect with her ancestral past. She becomes Travis's guide through a realm of nature signs and uncanny coincidences. With her he comes to know a world in which two opposing views are in conflict: Earth as commodity (whose resources exist to be consumed) and Earth as ancestor (to be honored and revered). The Last Paradise begins in San Francisco and pushes farther west, past the continent's edge, out into the Pacific. While its environmental drama is as contemporary as today's headlines, the novel resonates with the ancient theme of quest and transformation. A compelling cross-cultural love story, it is also a lyrical meditation on the volcano. Said to be the home of Pele, the fire goddess, Hawai'i's volcano region is at once destructive and creative, deadly and healing. Its capacity to transform human lives is at the heart of this powerful tale of crisis and renewal.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal - Library Journal
Continuing his saga of the Doyle family begun in Continental Drift (LJ 8/78), Houston focuses on Travis Doyle, a Vietnam veteran whose nightmares persist almost 15 years later. Now an insurance claims adjuster, Travis is sent to the Big Island of Hawaii to investigate a fire at the site of geothermal excavations near volcanic lava fields. What he finds, along with Angel Sakai, his long-lost first love, is a community both enraged by environmental depredations and concerned about insults to Pele, the volcano goddess. Attempting to unravel the cause of the fire, Travis and Angel find themselves healed by the fiery eruptions of Pele, whose powerful presence manipulates all the characters and events. Houston's masterly handling of the relationship between people's lives and the forces of nature and his red-hot depiction of Angel and Travis's blazing love affair have created a first-class read for popular fiction collections.Andrea Caron Kempf, Johnson Cty. Community Coll. Lib.,Overland Park, Kan.
Kirkus Reviews
Diffuse, now-and-then enchanting mystery set in modern Hawaii. In a physical and emotional landscape where lovers and volcanoes seem to erupt synchronously, Houston pits developers against both environmentalists and Native Hawaiians over a troublesome yet promising geothermal electricity scheme. Vietnam vet Travis Doyle, an insurance claims adjuster from San Francisco, takes on a cushy job on the Big Island of Hawaii: He gets busy checking out a fire at a drilling site on the slopes of the volcano. Once islanded there, Travis, who was the love- and-drug- troubled son of Houston's protagonist Montrose Doyle in Continental Drift (1978), immediately bumps into Evangeline Sakai, his teen angel from a youthful summer spent long ago in Honolulu. Now a single mother who's trying to rebuild her life, part-Hawaiian Evangeline is drawn, like almost everyone on the island, into Ian Prince's geothermal scheme, which will either provide billions of kilowatts for development or inspire the wrath of Pele, the native volcano goddess. As lava sweeps down on the site and Travis is compelled to wrestle with his demons (and, eventually, with Evangeline herself), Prince's plan to pin blame for the fire on a rabid pot-growing protestor comes utterly undone. Having always believed that Pele would target him anyway for his hotel-building father's transgressions, Prince dies in the hopeless attempt to deliver a compensatory offering. Meanwhile, Evangeline dedicates herself to Hawaiian activism, and Travis goes home to (maybe?) tend the family apple orchard. Houston's latest has a lot going for it: a plot derived from real-life events, plus a vividly accurate portrayal of Native Hawaiian reverence forthe volcano. And so it's a pity that the action is slapdash and the dialogue wooden. An uneven, intriguing effort.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780806132907
Publisher:
University of Oklahoma Press
Publication date:
01/28/2000
Series:
Literature of the American West Series
Pages:
384
Product dimensions:
5.46(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.83(d)

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Meet the Author

Read an Excerpt

Don't we all do this? Live our days one at a time, plunging along, driven by who knows what? Years later, looking back, some pattern may appear. The mind will seek it out, the pattern gives order to the day, the season, the blizzard of events. Was a pattern really there? Who knows? But the mind needs one.
PUBCOMMENT: The Last Paraside is winner of the 1999 American Book Award.

"This is a lush, lyrical novel, effectively combining a mystery story, a love story, and a glowing tapestry of Hawaiian life and culture."--Booklist

"The Last Paradise delivers characters with thoroughly imagined lives, engaged in complex interdependencies. A good and exciting read, about important matters."--The Washington Post

"Houston's masterly handling of the relationship between people's lives and the forces of nature and his red hot description of Angel and Travis's blazing love affair have created a first-class read for popular fiction collections."--Library Journal

"James Houston is a most valuable natural resource. Our world needs his way of seeing and knowing."--Maxine Hong Kingston, author of China Men and Tripmaster Monkey: His Fake Book

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