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Reviewed by Vincent Dublado for Readers' Favorite
The Aloha Spirit by Linda A. Ulleseit begins in 1922, with a heartbreaking opening line stating that seven-year-old Dolores is deemed useless by her father. He never said it to her directly, but this is what has been running through his mind. This is because she is too young to work on the mainland, so her father is going to California to look for work and taking her older brother with him. As she lost her mother too early, her adoptive mother, Noelani, gives her the domestic chore of laundry. Noelani and her husband have ten children, and like Dolores, most of them are adopted or Hānai, which means informal adoption. She becomes close to Maria, Noelani’s Hānai daughter. At the age of sixteen, Dolores runs away from home to live with the newly wedded Maria. As she tries to find her own true love, two male figures will come into Dolores’ life. She marries a young Portuguese man named Manolo, who becomes an abusive alcoholic. Manolo’s relative, Alberto, comes to her rescue but soon finds his own demons.
The Aloha Spirit is well-developed in plotting and characters as it provides plenty of breathing room to explore relationships. It is a novel that accomplishes its purpose—illustrating a realistic love story and giving a piece of history from the fictional experience of ordinary characters. The results make you emotionally invested as it is engaging. There are no needless complications here, and you even get to have a little Hawaiian language lesson at the end of the story. Linda A. Ulleseit writes with a strong grasp of local color to send the Hawaiian spirit flowing through your veins. It is an exceptional story of a woman whose unwavering spirit has been tested at a very young age and continues throughout her years. How she contends with life’s challenges is a story worth reading, and this is just one of the reasons why The Aloha Spirit merits your attention.