Tender, eloquent first novel told in the many voices of an extended
Chinese-Hawaiian family. Tyau opens with a mother holding her
wakeful infant, a girl named Mahealani (full-moon night), and
anticipating the day her baby will leave for college. In succeeding
chapters, we hear the daughter, nicknamed Mahi, ruminating on the
thick lips that are the only Hawaiian trait she got from her
father, Kuhio; Kuhio talking as he mixes thick poi paste using
virtually his whole body; the Hawaiian grandmother, or tutu,
dancing her history in a hula, talking with her hands; the Chinese
grandmother, Popo, reminiscing about her early life while making
sticky rice cakes. The characters' recollections of the dead
Chinese grandfather, Goong-Goong, are especially poignant: Breaking
the stereotype of timid first-generation Asian immigrants, he was a
joyous physical presence, a surfer who carried his granddaughter on
his shoulders. The author's gift for immediacy and intimacy serves
the story well. The family is a lively, vivid bunch, sensually
greedy at luaus and Chinese nine-course wedding banquets (hence the
title). Meanwhile, there are conflicts: A drunken, newly divorced
sister tells Mahi's mother that she won't see her 50th wedding
anniversary either; Mahi's brother wants to serve in Vietnam; and
in one scene Kuhio confesses that he wants to take a lover. The
author heartrendingly conveys throughout the theme of losing
paradise: Two especially beautiful chapters show a Hawaiian
neighbor mourning for his male companion and Mahi's Hawaiian
godmother expressing her understanding of why the girl must leave
the islands. These loosely connected vignettes, however, don't
build to a climax; the middle bogs down, and the narrative has a
certain circular sameness. Tyau's considerable strengths are voice,
characterization, and descriptive prose, not storytelling. Still,
an impressive and important addition to a growing Hawaiian school
of writers. (Kirkus Reviews)
Filled with love and food, this story of the Hawaiian Wong family is an exuberant banquet of characters and stories.
Mahealani Wong was named for the full moon she was born under as her Chinese grandmother believed it would bring her good luck. She has a full helping of her fathers full Hawaiian lips and the rebellious heart of an American teenager. In this vibrant tale, Mahi tries to get more than the "little too much" that is enough for the loving and hard-to-let-go-of-one-another Wong family.
"[A Little Too Much Is Enough] vividly recreates Honolulu after World War II. . . . When the author gets around to describing the brutal fields and canneries where Mahi and her brother labor in the service of Hawaiis most famous fruit, its a revelation. Youll never look at a can of pineapple the same way again."--Deborah Stead, New York Times Book Review
"This sweet book takes you to Hawaii, to breezy streets, to beaches with just enough people on them, to families plotting for days about the luau theyre going to give for this or that growing-up child. . . . Catch it while you can. Its a wonderful vacation."--Carolyn See, Washington Post
"A delightful and aromatic feast for the soul."--Willamette Week
"This is a well-crafted and rich book, product of a skilled and talented writer."--Maya Muir, Portland Oregonian
"A delightful, imaginary memoir of growing up in Hawaii in the 50s."--Harry Eagar, Maui News Kathleen Tyau
grew up on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. She lives in Oregon. A PNBA Best Book of the Year
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