Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers

Written by Sara Ackerman
Review by Kristen Hannum

There’s an intriguing mystery from the outset in Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers: readers know that young Ella knows something about her father’s disappearance two years earlier. The action, set in 1944 Hawaii, moves quickly between chapters from Ella’s point of view and chapters from that of her mother, Violet, who is still dealing with her own grief and confusion over her husband’s disappearance. Violet is also working and nurturing Ella, who has stopped eating enough and playing. Violet and her friends set up a pie stand to earn cash; their Japanese friends are imperiled by the authorities’ suspicions of them; a group of Marines show up with a lion—a real lion—as a mascot, and those three threads move everything forward towards the book’s conclusion.

Author Ackerman, who was born and raised in Hawaii and lives there now, does a nice job of showing what the war looked like from the islands, and how tricky negotiating friendships in a time of war can be. This is her first published book. I enjoyed the relationships playing out between the women: Violet, her roommate, Jean, and their friend Setsuko. The three help one another with moral support and childcare and wisdom. I least enjoyed the lion, although he was a very nice lion. Too nice, perhaps. I was aware of having to maintain my suspension of disbelief, which put me in a more critical place than just being able to enjoy the story.