Reviews

STARRED REVIEW
(Reviewed: October 2017)

Reminiscent of James Michener’s Hawaii, Hawaii native Malia Mattoch McManus’s Dragonfruit delivers an exquisite tale of love, heartbreak and indomitability of spirit that, like a lush native vine, winds around and through Hawaii’s turbulent history between 1891-­1900.

On the island of Oahu in 1891, 18-­year-­old Eliza’s carefree existence is about to take a precipitous downturn. A plantation heiress, best friend to the royal princess, and smitten with opium magnate’s son Ben, Eliza suddenly finds herself pregnant and deserted. (Uninformed of the pregnancy, Ben has been sent away to China.) Since Eliza won’t give up the child, her plantation-­owner father decides to “sell” her to Abram, an ambitious ranch manager in remote Molokai. And so, for $10,000, Abram will marry Eliza and legitimize her bastard baby.

Although she didn’t foresee living with a verbally abusive husband in a friendless land, Eliza steadfastly refuses to play victim. Meanwhile, the monarchy faces a coup from rich American landowners and, as Dragonfruit unfurls, Hawaii is ultimately stripped of the right to retain control of its own kingdom.

McManus’ characters offer a welcome complexity; even villains are allowed glimpses into their humanity. Eliza stands as a magnificent heroine of rare wit and grit—a character who demands, and deserves, readers’ loyalty throughout.

Decidedly knowledgeable in Hawaiian history and habitat, McManus’ descriptions are superb, i.e., place (“waterfalls folded into the green fan of the mountains”) and physicality (“her dismissal as fluid as a moment of hula”). And the inclusion of Molokai’s heartrending leper colony adds even more potency.

This vibrant historical novel alternately seduces, shocks, angers, distresses and inspires in a way that resonates today: a young woman standing up to suffocating male entitlement;; an exploited nation struggling to maintain sovereignty;; greed, racism, cruelty—yet at the story’s hard-­shelled, dragonfruit-­like center lies the soft, singular magnificence of the human heart. Dragonfruit’s captivating narrative, riveting true history, and compelling characters are all beautifully realized, creating a wholly rewarding reading experience.

 

Kirkus Review of Dragonfruit

“McManus skillfully weaves in descriptions of Honolulu’s beauty and floral scents, the anguish of Molokai’s leper colony, and the vast intermingling of cultures on the islands…A poignant and promising first novel.” – Kirkus Reviews

 

“Driven by the harsh, racist conditions of plantation life and the tragedy of Hawaii’s loss of sovereignty, “Dragonfruit” is reminiscent of “Gone With the Wind,” with epic scenes of violence and fire. Eliza’s indomitable spirit and unapologetic sexuality recall Scarlett O’Hara.”

 

“Once in a blue moon, a story reaches into the core of your being, and moves it with the sheer beauty of its truth, honesty, revelation, and lyricism. I have a list of about ten novels that have done exactly that in my life. “Dragonfruit” is such a story, and will remain in my heart forever.

I could not put this book down! The well-drawn characters utterly captivated me from page one. Having lived in Hawaii for a year, Maui to be exact, the lush imagery pops; I can literally smell her words at times, recalling the lands and the beautiful people I love. Although I have spent time on Oahu and Lanai, I have not yet been to Molokai, which is prominently featured in the first part of the story. I now feel like part of my heart is there, and I HAVE to return to pay a visit.

Pitaya, as the Hawaiians call dragonfruit, is a most intriguing fruit. The color is gorgeous, and the shape not unlike fire straight from a dragon’s mouth. The taste is earthy, sightly sweet, and as a whole, mesmerizing; an appropriate title for this epic. The historical punch is particularly relevant, and makes me ache for all that has occurred to beautiful Hawaii, particularly at the turn of the last century. The plot is moving, suspenseful, heartbreaking, and glorious; the relationships rich and compelling! I cannot stop thinking about each character and wondering about their lives and circumstances, replaying (and re-reading) my favorite scenes. The flawless interweaving of Hawaiian legends and culture with poignant historical details will wreck you in all the right ways.”

 

Former KHON anchor publishes first novel, Dragonfruit

Diane Ako writes: “Malia Mattoch McManus paints loving and vivid images of Hawaii in the late 1800s, through the eyes of a strong, woman living through the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy and her own tumultuous young life. The fictional story is not only a compelling narrative…it also depicts an intimate look at a sad moment in Hawaii’s history,” said Roy Kimura, former vice president of creative services – PBS Hawaii in a book review.

After a decade reporting and anchoring at KHON in Honolulu, my former colleague began researching Dragonfruit. Parts of her own family arrived in Hawai`i in the 1800’s as both ship captains and sugar plantation workers.

Dragonfruit is McManus’s second published book but first novel. (Congratulations, Malia!) She also wrote The Hawaiian House Now and continues to write and report for local publications. She lives on O`ahu with her family.

 

A Novel Idea

August – September 2017
by Margie Jacinto

Author Malia Mattoch McManus’ new book, Dragonfruit, pays a visit to Hawai‘i’s past—as well as a bit of her own.

When Malia Mattoch Mcmanus came out with home design tome the Hawaiian House Now almost a decade ago, it was safe to assume her second book would pertain to a topic along similar lines. So, a historical fiction novel set in Hawai‘i’s most tumultuous period is perhaps a genre even McManus herself wasn’t expecting to pen. But inspiration strikes at the most unlikely places, and for the Kailua-born writer and reporter, it struck on an almost-secluded beach on Moloka‘i years ago. Now, with her first published novel already garnering rave reviews, McManus gives us the story behind her recently released book, Dragonfruit.

What prompted you to write Dragonfruit?
Many years ago, I was counting turtles overnight for the Nature Conservancy on Moloka‘i. I heard a woman’s laugh coming from behind an abandoned ruin on the beach. We looked for the woman but never found her, though her laugh went on throughout the night. This was the first and, I think, last time I’ve ever had this feeling. The friend I was counting the turtles with, who is part Hawaiian, never could hear the woman as I did … “Because that’s the crazy haole ghost,” [my friend, Pi‘ikea’s] grandfather told me, naming an old Hawai‘i missionary family as the source of the ghost. I have no idea if Pi‘i’s grandfather was just pulling my leg, but it planted an idea in my head—what would bring such a woman to a place like that, and what would drive her to haunt it?

How does the novel come into play?
Dragonfruit’s main character, Eliza Dawson, does not fit the profile of that ghost, but the genesis of her heartbreak, adventure and redemption came from that night. From there, years passed as I worked as a reporter and collected little bits and pieces during stories about O‘ahu cemetery or ‘Iolani Palace. Each Palace guide told a slightly different version of events, and each detail is still lodged in my mind …

Are there any other personal aspects woven into the story?
Another dear Hawai‘i friend, Heather Ho, had passed away in 9/11. I wanted to add something about friendship and loss, but love too, and that’s where the component of the friendship with Ka‘iulani and the storyline of the Chinese family came in. I wanted to honor Heather’s roots in a way that was totally fictional to her actual life, but allowed me to spend time reading about that community’s history in Hawai‘i, which is a fascinating one.

Final details came in as I took my young sons to Bishop Museum once a week to walk through the Hawaiian Hall. The collection provided ideas for the twists and turns and other characters’ plot lines. The feather cloaks, old photographs, priceless pieces—many found their way into this book that took me so long to write but I hope honors the Hawai‘i I find so rich and unique. This story couldn’t take place anywhere else in the world than here…

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ This was a wonderful read that I couldn’t put down
By Elizabeth Sundquist on January 28, 2018

This was a wonderful read that I couldn’t put down. The highlight for me was discovering more about the history of Hawaii. Interwoven with an intriguing story made the history lesson very enjoyable.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Five Stars
By Suzmaui on January 14, 2018

Love this book!

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Great historical novel about the overthrow of Hawaii’s monarchy
By Lehuanani on December 19, 2017

A story for anyone who makes Hawaii their home should read. Great historical novel about the overthrow of Hawaii’s monarchy!

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ This book was the PERFECT find. Even as an avid reader
By Hayley on December 8, 2017

New to Hawaii, and struggling to remember all of the names and details surrounding the Island’s history, this book was the PERFECT find. Even as an avid reader, I have always steered clear of history-type books. Perhaps it is the left-over dread from a traumatic test in a grade-school history class, but something about pages crammed with facts has always given me an uncomfortable feeling.
Dragon Fruit is the first book I have ever found which has gently, and without my even noticing, taught me about important events and people without scaring me off.
It was a wonderful thing to read through the eyes of a protagonist who is determined to learn about a culture which does not biologically belong to her, but will shape her just the same. It is a book about the beauty of choosing your own identity. And a book about the beauty of these magical islands.
Well done, Mrs. Malia McManus. Well done.

Both a beautifully detailed, intimate story and an epic novel set …
By kevin lake on November 17, 2017

Both a beautifully detailed, intimate story and an epic novel set during Hawaii’s transition from a monarchy to a territory of the United States, Dragonfruit is a must read for anyone visiting or interested in Hawaii. The book enriches your experience of the islands. I loved it!

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Super Skilled Local Novelist out of Hawaii!
By Glenn F. Woo on November 16, 2017

In a nutshell – easy, enjoyable, suspenseful reading that makes you want to pick it back up because it is enjoyable, not because you got to far into the book not to finish it. It is a historical novel. I come from the T.H. days so this has a connection to me and my family were Anglican missionaries to a sugar plantation in Makapala so this takes place at a time and era very few use as a setting. One does not to have this background to enjoy the book but is historically accurate for these purposes. It is fast paced and each chapter is packed with “action” that is not dragged out in so many other “local” novels. Well worth one’s time. . As to Hawaiian set novels I can say it is as good as it gets.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ I feel, hear, and see the Hawaiian Islands and the people, and what Hawaii was supposed to be.
By Abby on September 29, 2017

This book is soooo good! I live in Oahu. I love this book.
I love that it is a fiction, adventure, and a love story. Yet it is set in the non-fiction events of Hawaii and how it came to become part of the United States. Reading this story took me on an adventure through the life of a young women living in Oahu and Molokai. For me, Dragonfruit opened up even more fascination with the Hawaiian Kingdom and how it ended. Walking around the streets of Waikiki look different now.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Beautiful
By Catherine on September 18, 2017

I could not put this book down. It is a compelling and beautifully told human story set perfectly in Hawaii’s history. The scent of white ginger and lily drifts out to the reader.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Five Stars
By G. Ramsey on September 11, 2017

Absolutely loved how Malia wove the history of Hawaii into her story.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ It is the perfect Hawaii read
By J. Ratcliff on August 26, 2017

My husband and I both read Dragonfruit while vacationing on Oahu this summer. It is the perfect Hawaii read. We enjoyed learning about Hawaiian history. McManus nails the period details; in particular protagonist Eliza’s voice is spot on to the era.
I read Dragonfruit first. The plot twists and turns made it hard to put down. I found myself cracking the book any time I had a spare second
— waiting for the valet or killing a few minutes while my husband rinsed off after surfing, it was hard to put down.
Next my husband read DF. I couldn’t wait for him to finish so we could talk about Eliza, Mehana, Kepa, Samuel, Ben and Ka’iulani’s fate!
If you are not on vacation but need a little Hawaii fix, this book brings to life the sensory details that make the islands so special –you will smell the heady pikake, feel the cool waterfalls, and see the blue-green phosphorescence drifting “like a peacock’s gown” in the darkened sea.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Five Stars
By charleson August 18, 2017

Beautifully penned book by someone who obviously understands and loves the culture and people of Hawaii.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Four Stars
By Amazon Customer on August 13, 2017

Could not put it down.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Great read!
By kokoon August 13, 2017

A better understanding of the history of Hawaii becoming part of the US. Well written and Eliza will take you from Oahu to Molokai and back.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Riveting and moving story about an unforgettable woman in Hawaiian history
By Malena Ann Watrous on August 9, 2017

This is both historical fiction and literary fiction, in the sense that it tells a story set in Hawaii 100 years ago, but it’s also written with such careful and beautiful attention to language that even people who don’t normally gravitate towards historical fiction are bound to love it. I know I did. It takes you from the homes of the super privileged elite in Honolulu, back when white people in Hawaii were mainly missionaries to the island of Molokai, used as a leper colony-as you follow the adventures of the main character, a girl who loses everything but then gains so much strength of character over the course of her struggles to find her own footing. I really connected with this protagonist, and also so admired McManus’s plotting and pacing. The story moves swiftly and takes many unpredictable turns. It’s a truly harrowing (and page turning) tale with an ending (no spoilers here) that manages to be positive but not false, and totally earned. One of my very favorite books that I’ve read in the past year, I recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone who loves a good story that’s beautifully told, and particularly people with an interest in Hawaii’s fascinating history.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Amazing Historical Hawaii Novel – Can’t Wait for Malia’s Next Book!!!!!
By kh1279 on August 5, 2017

This was such a captivating book…. I could not put it down. The historical details about Hawaii in the late 1800’s were wonderful and I loved the characters and plot. I was actually sad when the book ended. I hope Malia will follow Dragonfruit with another novel.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Mahalo Malia!
By T. Vara on August 4, 2017

The gift that Malia Mattoch McManus gives us with this absorbing read is that we are allowed to feel history — as dust in our throats, sand on our backs, fear in our lungs and longing in our hearts. Mountains of research distilled into characters and scenes that ring so beautifully true, both to that time and ours, connect and challenge simultaneously. I could not put this down, and cannot put it out of my mind. . Mahalo Malia, for weaving exquisite threads to bind things that may have been otherwise lost, unfelt, and unappreciated.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ A real page turner–Highly recommended!
By KH on July 30, 2017

Dragonfruit was such a wonderful book. I found myself thinking about the characters throughout the day and longing for that time of day when the kids would go to bed so I could start reading more. I have always been fascinated with Hawaiian history so I enjoyed the journey to a time long ago and the unexpected history lesson. I enjoyed the way Malia developed the characters and the struggles they went through. I would highly recommend this book.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Read this book!
By Heather N. Williams on July 21, 2017

I am not usually a fan of historical fiction but I have to say this book really drew me in. The story line just got more and more engaging as I read. I loved the characters as well, and I will miss spending time with them. Malia McManus paints a beautiful picture of Hawaii in a time of transition and turmoil. I have been binge reading for the past few days, staying up too late, and now I’m so sad it’s over!

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Great, authentic perspective!
By MarkL. on July 19, 2017

As someone who grew up in Hawai’i, this book hit all the right notes. It kept me completely enthralled but also made me proud of the beautiful place I’m from. I would highly recommend to anyone on the mainland who is a little homesick, or just dreaming of some place visiting this beautiful and soulful place the book recreates on the pages in dazzling form.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Well done Malia!
By Lagers on July 18, 2017

This was a wonderful read!

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ McManus Paints With Words
By Roy Kimura n July 17, 2017

Disclosure: This book was gifted to me by the author. I am receiving no compensation for this review, nor was my review requested by the author. Malia Mattoch McManus paints loving and vivid images of Hawaii in the late 1800s, through the eyes of a strong, woman living through the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy and her own tumultuous young life. The fictional story is not only a compelling narrative…it also depicts an intimate look at a sad moment in Hawaii’s history.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ An intriguing peek into Hawaii’s past
By C. Nickel on July 17, 2017

I read this book in a weekend, as I couldn’t put it down. I knew very little about Hawaii’s past prior to reading it and was riveted by the historical details of it all. The story and characters are equally captivating – even days after finishing the book, they’re still on my mind. I really loved this story and plan on gifting it to several friends who love islands and historical novels too.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Fabulous read. Couldn’t put it down.
By JONESY on July 14, 2017

Interesting Hawaii saga set at a pivotal point in Hawaiian history. Suspense and vivid character portrayal with interesting yet uncontrived plot twists surrounding historical events.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Compelling Hawaiian Historical Novel
By Jeri Simons on July 11, 2017

I found this book compelling for many reasons. It’s an historical novel that takes place over a hundred years ago in Hawaii, and the issues are still relevant today, wherever you live — interracial marriage, fear and integration of outsiders, political/power/money struggles, and the personal tolls taken on individuals as a result. It also gives insight into the Hawaiian monarchy and culture, as well as subsequent generations of new comers to the islands. The author’s intertwining of these elements and the characters make for a good read.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ A Page Turner!
By Florence on July 7, 2017

Dragonfruit is an incredibly moving tale that pulled me in from the very first page. Malia Mattoch McManus transports the reader back to a painful and tumultuous time in Hawaii’s history. I was captivated by the characters, the vivid backdrop of Old Hawai‘i, the Hawaiian legends she weaves into the story and the historical details of the time. Dragonfruit is a page-turner from beginning to end—I loved it!

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Richly developed characters invite the reader into a world of love, intrigue and betrayal
By Appreciative reader on July 6, 2017

Malia McManus’s descriptive pen creates an inviting portal to Hawaii’s turbulent past. Richly developed characters carry the reader into a world of love, intrigue and betrayal. While reading “Dragonfruit” we learn about Hawaii’s unique history, including the daily lives of the royal monarchs, and a secret plot to over throw the queen. The reader will want to linger in this world of old Hawaii.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Loved it! This compelling work of historical fiction is …
By Amazon Customer on June 20, 2017

I couldn’t put this book down…loved it! This compelling work of historical fiction is incredibly informative and brings you back into time in Old Hawaii. The characters were well developed and so engaging, and the well written story that unfolds is heart wrenching at times but also very inspiring. For anyone that has ever been lucky enough to visit the islands, this book will make you appreciate Hawaii and the Hawaiian culture even more…very moving!

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Malia McManus is a gifted, talented writer that weaves …
By Mandy on June 16, 2017

Malia McManus is a gifted, talented writer that weaves a captivating, cultural, historical and suspenseful tale of a young missionary girl’s coming of age during the otherthrow of the Hawaiian Monarchy. You are transported back in time, and feel as if you are actually there through Malia’s poetic, descriptive narrative. Not only was it a fabulous refresher in Hawaiian history but I learned so many new facts that were never mentioned in my Hawaiian studies books. You will definitely not be able to put this gem down.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ I enjoyed this work of historical fiction and did not want …
By P. K. Omidyar on June 14, 2017

I enjoyed this work of historical fiction and did not want to put it down until the end. The story reflects the complexity of the times. while focusing on the lives of a few key characters. Few know how a handful of American businessmen stole the Hawaiian monarchy in the 1890s. The subsequent laws that forbad the teaching of the Hawaiian language for almost 100 years were only one way that the U.S. tried to crush Hawaiian culture and expression. Good to see this story told, and the fictional writing was full of characters I grieved for and cared about.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Dragonfruit is incredibly well researched, a riveting read, and absolutely wonderful.
By Anne Oliver on June 11, 2017

Malia McManus weaves a wonderful story around the vivid backdrop of Old Hawaii during a tumultuous time in our history.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ An engaging read
By Katherine Nakamura on June 11, 2017

If you’re looking for:
-an engaging read
-good characters
-great plot
-historical fiction
-details of old Hawai’i

then you will love this book! It was a quick, enjoyable read; perfect for summer or any other time of year.

IN THE PRESS

STARRED REVIEW
(Reviewed: October 2017)

Reminiscent of James Michener’s Hawaii, Hawaii native Malia Mattoch McManus’s Dragonfruit delivers an exquisite tale of love, heartbreak and indomitability of spirit that, like a lush native vine, winds around and through Hawaii’s turbulent history between 1891-­1900.

On the island of Oahu in 1891, 18-­year-­old Eliza’s carefree existence is about to take a precipitous downturn. A plantation heiress, best friend to the royal princess, and smitten with opium magnate’s son Ben, Eliza suddenly finds herself pregnant and deserted. (Uninformed of the pregnancy, Ben has been sent away to China.) Since Eliza won’t give up the child, her plantation-­owner father decides to “sell” her to Abram, an ambitious ranch manager in remote Molokai. And so, for $10,000, Abram will marry Eliza and legitimize her bastard baby.

Although she didn’t foresee living with a verbally abusive husband in a friendless land, Eliza steadfastly refuses to play victim. Meanwhile, the monarchy faces a coup from rich American landowners and, as Dragonfruit unfurls, Hawaii is ultimately stripped of the right to retain control of its own kingdom.

McManus’ characters offer a welcome complexity; even villains are allowed glimpses into their humanity. Eliza stands as a magnificent heroine of rare wit and grit—a character who demands, and deserves, readers’ loyalty throughout.

Decidedly knowledgeable in Hawaiian history and habitat, McManus’ descriptions are superb, i.e., place (“waterfalls folded into the green fan of the mountains”) and physicality (“her dismissal as fluid as a moment of hula”). And the inclusion of Molokai’s heartrending leper colony adds even more potency.

This vibrant historical novel alternately seduces, shocks, angers, distresses and inspires in a way that resonates today: a young woman standing up to suffocating male entitlement;; an exploited nation struggling to maintain sovereignty;; greed, racism, cruelty—yet at the story’s hard-­shelled, dragonfruit-­like center lies the soft, singular magnificence of the human heart. Dragonfruit’s captivating narrative, riveting true history, and compelling characters are all beautifully realized, creating a wholly rewarding reading experience.

 

Kirkus Review of Dragonfruit

“McManus skillfully weaves in descriptions of Honolulu’s beauty and floral scents, the anguish of Molokai’s leper colony, and the vast intermingling of cultures on the islands…A poignant and promising first novel.” – Kirkus Reviews

 

“Driven by the harsh, racist conditions of plantation life and the tragedy of Hawaii’s loss of sovereignty, “Dragonfruit” is reminiscent of “Gone With the Wind,” with epic scenes of violence and fire. Eliza’s indomitable spirit and unapologetic sexuality recall Scarlett O’Hara.”

 

“Once in a blue moon, a story reaches into the core of your being, and moves it with the sheer beauty of its truth, honesty, revelation, and lyricism. I have a list of about ten novels that have done exactly that in my life. “Dragonfruit” is such a story, and will remain in my heart forever.

I could not put this book down! The well-drawn characters utterly captivated me from page one. Having lived in Hawaii for a year, Maui to be exact, the lush imagery pops; I can literally smell her words at times, recalling the lands and the beautiful people I love. Although I have spent time on Oahu and Lanai, I have not yet been to Molokai, which is prominently featured in the first part of the story. I now feel like part of my heart is there, and I HAVE to return to pay a visit.

Pitaya, as the Hawaiians call dragonfruit, is a most intriguing fruit. The color is gorgeous, and the shape not unlike fire straight from a dragon’s mouth. The taste is earthy, sightly sweet, and as a whole, mesmerizing; an appropriate title for this epic. The historical punch is particularly relevant, and makes me ache for all that has occurred to beautiful Hawaii, particularly at the turn of the last century. The plot is moving, suspenseful, heartbreaking, and glorious; the relationships rich and compelling! I cannot stop thinking about each character and wondering about their lives and circumstances, replaying (and re-reading) my favorite scenes. The flawless interweaving of Hawaiian legends and culture with poignant historical details will wreck you in all the right ways.”

 

Former KHON anchor publishes first novel, Dragonfruit

Diane Ako writes: “Malia Mattoch McManus paints loving and vivid images of Hawaii in the late 1800s, through the eyes of a strong, woman living through the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy and her own tumultuous young life. The fictional story is not only a compelling narrative…it also depicts an intimate look at a sad moment in Hawaii’s history,” said Roy Kimura, former vice president of creative services – PBS Hawaii in a book review.

After a decade reporting and anchoring at KHON in Honolulu, my former colleague began researching Dragonfruit. Parts of her own family arrived in Hawai`i in the 1800’s as both ship captains and sugar plantation workers.

Dragonfruit is McManus’s second published book but first novel. (Congratulations, Malia!) She also wrote The Hawaiian House Now and continues to write and report for local publications. She lives on O`ahu with her family.

 

 

A Novel Idea
August – September 2017
by Margie Jacinto

Author Malia Mattoch McManus’ new book, Dragonfruit, pays a visit to Hawai‘i’s past—as well as a bit of her own.

When Malia Mattoch Mcmanus came out with home design tome the Hawaiian House Now almost a decade ago, it was safe to assume her second book would pertain to a topic along similar lines. So, a historical fiction novel set in Hawai‘i’s most tumultuous period is perhaps a genre even McManus herself wasn’t expecting to pen. But inspiration strikes at the most unlikely places, and for the Kailua-born writer and reporter, it struck on an almost-secluded beach on Moloka‘i years ago. Now, with her first published novel already garnering rave reviews, McManus gives us the story behind her recently released book, Dragonfruit.

What prompted you to write Dragonfruit?
Many years ago, I was counting turtles overnight for the Nature Conservancy on Moloka‘i. I heard a woman’s laugh coming from behind an abandoned ruin on the beach. We looked for the woman but never found her, though her laugh went on throughout the night. This was the first and, I think, last time I’ve ever had this feeling. The friend I was counting the turtles with, who is part Hawaiian, never could hear the woman as I did … “Because that’s the crazy haole ghost,” [my friend, Pi‘ikea’s] grandfather told me, naming an old Hawai‘i missionary family as the source of the ghost. I have no idea if Pi‘i’s grandfather was just pulling my leg, but it planted an idea in my head—what would bring such a woman to a place like that, and what would drive her to haunt it?

How does the novel come into play?
Dragonfruit’s main character, Eliza Dawson, does not fit the profile of that ghost, but the genesis of her heartbreak, adventure and redemption came from that night. From there, years passed as I worked as a reporter and collected little bits and pieces during stories about O‘ahu cemetery or ‘Iolani Palace. Each Palace guide told a slightly different version of events, and each detail is still lodged in my mind …

Are there any other personal aspects woven into the story?
Another dear Hawai‘i friend, Heather Ho, had passed away in 9/11. I wanted to add something about friendship and loss, but love too, and that’s where the component of the friendship with Ka‘iulani and the storyline of the Chinese family came in. I wanted to honor Heather’s roots in a way that was totally fictional to her actual life, but allowed me to spend time reading about that community’s history in Hawai‘i, which is a fascinating one.

Final details came in as I took my young sons to Bishop Museum once a week to walk through the Hawaiian Hall. The collection provided ideas for the twists and turns and other characters’ plot lines. The feather cloaks, old photographs, priceless pieces—many found their way into this book that took me so long to write but I hope honors the Hawai‘i I find so rich and unique. This story couldn’t take place anywhere else in the world than here…

GOODREADS

AMAZON

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ This was a wonderful read that I couldn’t put down
By Elizabeth Sundquist on January 28, 2018

This was a wonderful read that I couldn’t put down. The highlight for me was discovering more about the history of Hawaii. Interwoven with an intriguing story made the history lesson very enjoyable.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Five Stars
By Suzmaui on January 14, 2018

Love this book!

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Great historical novel about the overthrow of Hawaii’s monarchy
By Lehuanani on December 19, 2017

A story for anyone who makes Hawaii their home should read. Great historical novel about the overthrow of Hawaii’s monarchy!

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ This book was the PERFECT find. Even as an avid reader
By Hayley on December 8, 2017

New to Hawaii, and struggling to remember all of the names and details surrounding the Island’s history, this book was the PERFECT find. Even as an avid reader, I have always steered clear of history-type books. Perhaps it is the left-over dread from a traumatic test in a grade-school history class, but something about pages crammed with facts has always given me an uncomfortable feeling.
Dragon Fruit is the first book I have ever found which has gently, and without my even noticing, taught me about important events and people without scaring me off.
It was a wonderful thing to read through the eyes of a protagonist who is determined to learn about a culture which does not biologically belong to her, but will shape her just the same. It is a book about the beauty of choosing your own identity. And a book about the beauty of these magical islands.
Well done, Mrs. Malia McManus. Well done.

Both a beautifully detailed, intimate story and an epic novel set …
By kevin lake on November 17, 2017

Both a beautifully detailed, intimate story and an epic novel set during Hawaii’s transition from a monarchy to a territory of the United States, Dragonfruit is a must read for anyone visiting or interested in Hawaii. The book enriches your experience of the islands. I loved it!

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Super Skilled Local Novelist out of Hawaii!
By Glenn F. Woo on November 16, 2017

In a nutshell – easy, enjoyable, suspenseful reading that makes you want to pick it back up because it is enjoyable, not because you got to far into the book not to finish it. It is a historical novel. I come from the T.H. days so this has a connection to me and my family were Anglican missionaries to a sugar plantation in Makapala so this takes place at a time and era very few use as a setting. One does not to have this background to enjoy the book but is historically accurate for these purposes. It is fast paced and each chapter is packed with “action” that is not dragged out in so many other “local” novels. Well worth one’s time. . As to Hawaiian set novels I can say it is as good as it gets.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ I feel, hear, and see the Hawaiian Islands and the people, and what Hawaii was supposed to be.
By Abby on September 29, 2017

This book is soooo good! I live in Oahu. I love this book.
I love that it is a fiction, adventure, and a love story. Yet it is set in the non-fiction events of Hawaii and how it came to become part of the United States. Reading this story took me on an adventure through the life of a young women living in Oahu and Molokai. For me, Dragonfruit opened up even more fascination with the Hawaiian Kingdom and how it ended. Walking around the streets of Waikiki look different now.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Beautiful
By Catherine on September 18, 2017

I could not put this book down. It is a compelling and beautifully told human story set perfectly in Hawaii’s history. The scent of white ginger and lily drifts out to the reader.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Five Stars
By G. Ramsey on September 11, 2017

Absolutely loved how Malia wove the history of Hawaii into her story.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ It is the perfect Hawaii read
By J. Ratcliff on August 26, 2017

My husband and I both read Dragonfruit while vacationing on Oahu this summer. It is the perfect Hawaii read. We enjoyed learning about Hawaiian history. McManus nails the period details; in particular protagonist Eliza’s voice is spot on to the era.
I read Dragonfruit first. The plot twists and turns made it hard to put down. I found myself cracking the book any time I had a spare second
— waiting for the valet or killing a few minutes while my husband rinsed off after surfing, it was hard to put down.
Next my husband read DF. I couldn’t wait for him to finish so we could talk about Eliza, Mehana, Kepa, Samuel, Ben and Ka’iulani’s fate!
If you are not on vacation but need a little Hawaii fix, this book brings to life the sensory details that make the islands so special –you will smell the heady pikake, feel the cool waterfalls, and see the blue-green phosphorescence drifting “like a peacock’s gown” in the darkened sea.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Five Stars
By charleson August 18, 2017

Beautifully penned book by someone who obviously understands and loves the culture and people of Hawaii.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Four Stars
By Amazon Customer on August 13, 2017

Could not put it down.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Great read!
By kokoon August 13, 2017

A better understanding of the history of Hawaii becoming part of the US. Well written and Eliza will take you from Oahu to Molokai and back.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Riveting and moving story about an unforgettable woman in Hawaiian history
By Malena Ann Watrous on August 9, 2017

This is both historical fiction and literary fiction, in the sense that it tells a story set in Hawaii 100 years ago, but it’s also written with such careful and beautiful attention to language that even people who don’t normally gravitate towards historical fiction are bound to love it. I know I did. It takes you from the homes of the super privileged elite in Honolulu, back when white people in Hawaii were mainly missionaries to the island of Molokai, used as a leper colony-as you follow the adventures of the main character, a girl who loses everything but then gains so much strength of character over the course of her struggles to find her own footing. I really connected with this protagonist, and also so admired McManus’s plotting and pacing. The story moves swiftly and takes many unpredictable turns. It’s a truly harrowing (and page turning) tale with an ending (no spoilers here) that manages to be positive but not false, and totally earned. One of my very favorite books that I’ve read in the past year, I recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone who loves a good story that’s beautifully told, and particularly people with an interest in Hawaii’s fascinating history.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Amazing Historical Hawaii Novel – Can’t Wait for Malia’s Next Book!!!!!
By kh1279 on August 5, 2017

This was such a captivating book…. I could not put it down. The historical details about Hawaii in the late 1800’s were wonderful and I loved the characters and plot. I was actually sad when the book ended. I hope Malia will follow Dragonfruit with another novel.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Mahalo Malia!
By T. Vara on August 4, 2017

The gift that Malia Mattoch McManus gives us with this absorbing read is that we are allowed to feel history — as dust in our throats, sand on our backs, fear in our lungs and longing in our hearts. Mountains of research distilled into characters and scenes that ring so beautifully true, both to that time and ours, connect and challenge simultaneously. I could not put this down, and cannot put it out of my mind. . Mahalo Malia, for weaving exquisite threads to bind things that may have been otherwise lost, unfelt, and unappreciated.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ A real page turner–Highly recommended!
By KH on July 30, 2017

Dragonfruit was such a wonderful book. I found myself thinking about the characters throughout the day and longing for that time of day when the kids would go to bed so I could start reading more. I have always been fascinated with Hawaiian history so I enjoyed the journey to a time long ago and the unexpected history lesson. I enjoyed the way Malia developed the characters and the struggles they went through. I would highly recommend this book.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Read this book!
By Heather N. Williams on July 21, 2017

I am not usually a fan of historical fiction but I have to say this book really drew me in. The story line just got more and more engaging as I read. I loved the characters as well, and I will miss spending time with them. Malia McManus paints a beautiful picture of Hawaii in a time of transition and turmoil. I have been binge reading for the past few days, staying up too late, and now I’m so sad it’s over!

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Great, authentic perspective!
By MarkL. on July 19, 2017

As someone who grew up in Hawai’i, this book hit all the right notes. It kept me completely enthralled but also made me proud of the beautiful place I’m from. I would highly recommend to anyone on the mainland who is a little homesick, or just dreaming of some place visiting this beautiful and soulful place the book recreates on the pages in dazzling form.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Well done Malia!
By Lagers on July 18, 2017

This was a wonderful read!

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ McManus Paints With Words
By Roy Kimura n July 17, 2017

Disclosure: This book was gifted to me by the author. I am receiving no compensation for this review, nor was my review requested by the author. Malia Mattoch McManus paints loving and vivid images of Hawaii in the late 1800s, through the eyes of a strong, woman living through the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy and her own tumultuous young life. The fictional story is not only a compelling narrative…it also depicts an intimate look at a sad moment in Hawaii’s history.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ An intriguing peek into Hawaii’s past
By C. Nickel on July 17, 2017

I read this book in a weekend, as I couldn’t put it down. I knew very little about Hawaii’s past prior to reading it and was riveted by the historical details of it all. The story and characters are equally captivating – even days after finishing the book, they’re still on my mind. I really loved this story and plan on gifting it to several friends who love islands and historical novels too.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Fabulous read. Couldn’t put it down.
By JONESY on July 14, 2017

Interesting Hawaii saga set at a pivotal point in Hawaiian history. Suspense and vivid character portrayal with interesting yet uncontrived plot twists surrounding historical events.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Compelling Hawaiian Historical Novel
By Jeri Simons on July 11, 2017

I found this book compelling for many reasons. It’s an historical novel that takes place over a hundred years ago in Hawaii, and the issues are still relevant today, wherever you live — interracial marriage, fear and integration of outsiders, political/power/money struggles, and the personal tolls taken on individuals as a result. It also gives insight into the Hawaiian monarchy and culture, as well as subsequent generations of new comers to the islands. The author’s intertwining of these elements and the characters make for a good read.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ A Page Turner!
By Florence on July 7, 2017

Dragonfruit is an incredibly moving tale that pulled me in from the very first page. Malia Mattoch McManus transports the reader back to a painful and tumultuous time in Hawaii’s history. I was captivated by the characters, the vivid backdrop of Old Hawai‘i, the Hawaiian legends she weaves into the story and the historical details of the time. Dragonfruit is a page-turner from beginning to end—I loved it!

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Richly developed characters invite the reader into a world of love, intrigue and betrayal
By Appreciative reader on July 6, 2017

Malia McManus’s descriptive pen creates an inviting portal to Hawaii’s turbulent past. Richly developed characters carry the reader into a world of love, intrigue and betrayal. While reading “Dragonfruit” we learn about Hawaii’s unique history, including the daily lives of the royal monarchs, and a secret plot to over throw the queen. The reader will want to linger in this world of old Hawaii.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Loved it! This compelling work of historical fiction is …
By Amazon Customer on June 20, 2017

I couldn’t put this book down…loved it! This compelling work of historical fiction is incredibly informative and brings you back into time in Old Hawaii. The characters were well developed and so engaging, and the well written story that unfolds is heart wrenching at times but also very inspiring. For anyone that has ever been lucky enough to visit the islands, this book will make you appreciate Hawaii and the Hawaiian culture even more…very moving!

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Malia McManus is a gifted, talented writer that weaves …
By Mandy on June 16, 2017

Malia McManus is a gifted, talented writer that weaves a captivating, cultural, historical and suspenseful tale of a young missionary girl’s coming of age during the otherthrow of the Hawaiian Monarchy. You are transported back in time, and feel as if you are actually there through Malia’s poetic, descriptive narrative. Not only was it a fabulous refresher in Hawaiian history but I learned so many new facts that were never mentioned in my Hawaiian studies books. You will definitely not be able to put this gem down.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ I enjoyed this work of historical fiction and did not want …
By P. K. Omidyar on June 14, 2017

I enjoyed this work of historical fiction and did not want to put it down until the end. The story reflects the complexity of the times. while focusing on the lives of a few key characters. Few know how a handful of American businessmen stole the Hawaiian monarchy in the 1890s. The subsequent laws that forbad the teaching of the Hawaiian language for almost 100 years were only one way that the U.S. tried to crush Hawaiian culture and expression. Good to see this story told, and the fictional writing was full of characters I grieved for and cared about.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Dragonfruit is incredibly well researched, a riveting read, and absolutely wonderful.
By Anne Oliver on June 11, 2017

Malia McManus weaves a wonderful story around the vivid backdrop of Old Hawaii during a tumultuous time in our history.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ An engaging read
By Katherine Nakamura on June 11, 2017

If you’re looking for:
-an engaging read
-good characters
-great plot
-historical fiction
-details of old Hawai’i

then you will love this book! It was a quick, enjoyable read; perfect for summer or any other time of year.

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