In Haole Wood by Dee DeTarsio, readers meet 30-year-old Jaswinder Park. Jaswinder has led an interesting, yet disappointing, life. She is insecure and feels as if she lives in her older sister’s shadow. When her grandmother is arrested in Hawaii, Jaswinder has the chance to finally prove to her parents and to herself that she can be responsible. However, she quickly encounters a few problems upon arriving there. She has difficulty communicating with her grandmother who only speaks Hawaiian. She has no money and no job. To top it off, she keeps seeing someone who claims to be her guardian angel. Things get worse before they get better, leaving Jaswinder to once again question her abilities of acting like an adult.
Author Dee DeTarsio has created in Jaswinder a character with whom most readers will be able to empathize. Everyone at times has felt helpless or hopeless and the author realistically depicted Jaswinder’s struggles. She did a good job of demonstrating how things get better when people stop wallowing in self-pity and begin to actively take charge of their lives. One never knows what wonderful situations can come about if she is willing to take a few risks.
The author utilizes vivid descriptions of both the scenery and the characters throughout the book. Her details of the amazing tropical foliage and the color of the ocean allowed me to feel as if I was there witnessing them firsthand. I could also clearly visualize many of the characters in the story--from the most outrageous guardian angel ever to the handsome doctor who steals Jaswinder’s heart--based on the perfect choice of words. I was much more connected to the characters in this book since I felt as if I somehow knew them personally.
Haole Wood by Dee DeTarsio seems to be an odd title for a book but its meaning can only be understood through reading the story. The target audience is females roughly between the ages of 21 and 45. The author incorporates irony and foreshadowing to keep the reader wondering what disastrous situations Jaswinder will find herself in next. Although there are serious aspects in the plot, they are far outnumbered by the fun and light-hearted moments.