A powerful debut novel that delicately blends Hawaiian myth with the broken American dream.
'The next time I went for air you were at the surface, sideways, prone and ragdolling in the mouth of a shark. But the shark was holding you gently, do you understand? It was holding you like you were made of glass, like you were its child.'
In 1995 in Kailua-Kona, Hawai’i, seven-year-old Nainoa Flores is saved from drowning by a shiver of sharks. His family, struggling to make ends meet amidst the collapse of the sugar cane industry, hails his rescue as a sign of favour from ancient Hawaiian gods. But as time passes, this hope gives way to economic realities, forcing Nainoa and his siblings to seek salvation across the continental United States, leaving behind home and family.
With stunning physical detail and a profound command of language, Washburn’s powerful debut examines what it means to be both of a place, and a stranger in it.
“Kawai Strong Washburn has written the great Hawaiian novel. This is the story of a family that becomes the story of the islands, as he brilliantly brings to life the culture and history and politics and geography and myths of a place that most people don’t know outside of glossy postcards and beachside vacations. Washburn is a virtuoso who will dizzy and enchant you with sentences that are crazy lyrical but never distract from the raw, comic, devastating, loving familial magic that is the heart of the book. Sharks in the Time of Saviours is a volcanic powerhouse of a debut.”
Benjamin Percy, author of Red Moon
“Sharks in the Time of Saviours bursts with life. It is bright and beautifully noisy. It’s so good it hurts and hurts to where it heals. It is revelatory and unputdownable. Washburn is an extraordinarily brilliant new talent. This family saga is shark tooth sharp. Its pages shoot off crackles and sparks, and you come out of it changed. It is sublime.”
Tommy Orange (author of There, There)
“Sharks in the Time of Saviours is a lush, virtuosic novel with breathless scope and lasting depth. Kawai Strong Washburn’s vision is searing, his talent explosive, his heart beating loud and proud on every page.”
Claire Vaye Watkins, author of Gold, Fame, Citrus
“Sharks In The Time of Saviours is the novel you never knew you were waiting for. Old myths clash with new realities, love is in a ride or die with grief, faith rubs hard against magic, and comic flips with tragic so much they meld into something new. All told with daredevil lyricism to burn. A ferocious debut.”
Marlon James (author of Black Leopard, Red Wolf)
“Sharks in the Time of Saviours is a story of trauma passed down through the generations, of how poverty, grief, and broken dreams weave their way through the lives of one family. Yet it is a story told with joy, even humour, in lyrical, hypnotic prose that will stay with you long after you turn the last page.”
Tahmima Anam, author of The Bones of Grace
“Sharks in the Time of Saviours is a brilliant novel and one of the most engaging and memorable books I’ve read this year. Sentences sparkle, the narrative voices remain distinctive and complete, and the deep notes of magic sound under the realism of poverty and loss. I didn’t want it to end.”
Sarah Moss, author of Ghost Wall
“Washburn's buzzy debut novel explores the shifting bonds of family and the inescapable pull of home.”
New York Times
“One of the most richly imagined and evocative debuts in recent memory . . . The writing is dazzling, captivating, all-seeing. The language is lyrical and lush and also muscular and gnarled . . . To say I found the novel to be impressive is an understatement. I was enthralled by the world captured in its pages and, once I turned the final page, found myself wanting more.”
LA Review of Books
“Imagine The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen imbued with Hawaiian mysticism, and you might get a sense of this searing sibling saga about a boy gifted with supernatural healing abilities – and the family who lives in his shadow.”