Hawaii Book Publisher’s Association Ka Palapala Po’okela Awards 2013
Excellence in “Aloha from Across the Sea”
Honorable Mention (2nd place), judges’ citation
Aloha, Mozart, by Waimea Williams (Luminis Books)
In Waimea Williams’s romantic novel, Aloha, Mozart, an impoverished young Hawaiian soprano manages to sing her way through Honolulu and New York and on into the decadent opera scene of 1960’s Austria, a world she finds dazzling and corrupt, seductive and rotten. The story is based on the author’s own rise to stardom.
Her narrative details the homely virtues of growing up on Kauai with her grandmother versus a post-war Nazi-tinged Europe, with threats of Soviet invasion, and the ornate concert halls of the illustrious Mozarteum Salzburg. We follow young Maile Manoa down a road of temptation, where rewards are great, the promise of fame enormous, but the two warring sides of her nature must resolve themselves.
Williams deftly recreates the intoxicating milieu of high art and sumptuous style in that era, as well as small-town Kauai in the 50’s (also see her earlier book Aloha, Kaua‘i: A Childhood). Her protagonist still sees, half a world away, that it is Hina the moon goddess pouring silver light over the Austrian Alps. And this Island girl must in the end choose the spirits of legend and song that brought her to the pinnacle of musical expression, or accept the unholy facade that attends such glittering success.
With Red tanks closing in on the city, and the music festival throngs in full revelry, she makes her fateful decision. Aloha, Mozart.