The Lion in the Lei Shop by Kaye Starbird

A while back, I read the book

The Lion in the Lei Shop

by Kaye Starbird. It was recommended by Modern Mrs. Darcy. It happened to be one of the Kindle deals of the day, so I read it on my kindle. 

I think this was a hard book for me to read because, in many ways, it hit strangely close to home. It was a novel that was written from two perspectives, telling the story twice. The two characters are mother and daughter and the story explores the question of perspective and how the perspectives of adults and children differ.

Marty is five years old when her home in Hawaii is thrown into chaos by the attack on Pearl Harbor. Her mother, April, who is pregnant at the time, reacts with the dutiful obedience of an army wife and helps organize the women, including her sister, Liz, who is also pregnant and farther along than April. Yet, in the midst of the chaos around them, neither woman seems to communicate with or even pay attention to their children. And that, friends, is the theme of the story.

Starbird tells of how Marty and April travel to Boston to live with April’s parents before ending up buying a small house out in the country. Throughout the story, Marty is expected to take more and more responsibility, all the while April apparently ignores her daughter in her distress. The different perspectives are interesting because you hear Marty’s honest, childlike version of what happened, and then you hear her mother’s version, which rarely matches up with what Marty thought happened.

The story is really good, but the storytelling becomes really infuriating. The characters waver between enchanting and annoying as Marty becomes obsessed with a lion in her nightmare and April spends a good portion of the novel ignoring her daughter (and after the second baby is born, daughters) and the obvious problems she is having adjusting to life after the bombing. Typical of family life in this era, there is no communication between the mother and her daughters, leaving the little ones confused and angry.

This is a hard book to rate because the story and writing are so good, but the characters so infuriating at times. I don’t think I would reread this one, but I will give it

3.5/5 stars. I think it would be a good book for a book group or discussion.