Bird of Another Heaven
Houston’s (Snow Mountain Passage) ninth novel is told by the 1987 version of Sheridan “Dan” Brody, a radio host who discovers his family origins thanks to his birth certificate and a grandmother who enters his life full of stories and her own mother’s diaries. Houston weaves Dan’s life in San Francisco with that of his Hawaiian great-grandmother, Nani Keala (“Nancy Callahan”), a consort of Hawaii’s last king, David Kalakaua.
Dan’s got problems of his own: a difficult relationship with his Japanese-American girlfriend and a corporate merger that may soon threaten his job. But he finds help in unlikely sources as he hunts down a wax cylinder recording made of a dying king’s voice. He discovers much more than a quick view of his ancestors. Historical figures such as David Kalakaua (“The Merrie Monarch”), his Hawaiian court, and John Sutter mix with stories of hula dancing, pioneer exploration and Dust Bowl experience, the Gold Rush and the extermination of California Indians.
Dan’s struggle to know more of his multicultural past is a valiant quest aided and abetted by the vibrant women in his life and his past. Although sometimes emotionally distant, it’s so refreshing to see the world from their eyes, touched by generous and wise intelligence, understanding, and forgiveness. Bravo!