Monday, June 05, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: House of Many Gods by Kiana Davenport

Ana grows up in a small house on the western coast of Oahu, Hawaii, living with three generations of her rambunctious extended family. Like her mother before her, Ana has been abandoned, raised by this group of illegitimates, notorious within their community of poor, native-Hawaiians. The first of her family to attend college and become a physician, Ana moves to Honolulu and eventually meets Nikolai while participating in rescue efforts after a hurricane devastates the neighbouring island of Kaua'i.

House of Many Gods is told from the perspectives of three narrators; Ana, Anahola (her mother, sometimes also referred to as Ana), and Nikolai. Initially each character's path is told independent of the others and as the novel develops, the paths move inevitably toward each other. While in the beginning the narration of both Ana and Anahola adds a great deal of confusion for the reader, further into the novel the multiple perspectives add significant depth to the story.

Ana spends much of the novel isolated, using everything as a shield to protect her heart and keep the world at arms length. When Rosie finally tells Ana the truth, that she rejects everything messy and human and is just like her mother, I wanted to curl up and escape Ana's feelings of mortification. Kiana Davenport writes Ana with such reality that I experienced the loneliness, terror and confusion along with her.

At the same time, since Davenport has so cleverly told the story from multiple perspectives, I also want to reach out and shake Ana out of her self-indulgence and guardedness. House of Many Gods captures the imagination, drawing the reader into the search for self experienced by each character.

House of Many Gods is a character driven novel but it is also a work specific to its time in history and the peoples under siege. Oahu and Russia are characters that are shaped by their time and events. History shapes both people and countries and perhaps this is the most important message Davenport shares with us, drawing the parallels of history between native-Hawaiian and Russians peoples.

While Davenport skillfully plays with techniques, using three narrators and three languages throughout the book, her techniques never interfere with the narrative. This is a mature work that will stand up well to repeated readings and study.

Read my review at Armchair Interviews - House of Many Gods.


kimbofo said...

Sheeesh. I have to stop reading your blog. Every time I visit my amazon wishlist grows by at least two books!

This one sounds fab! ;)

Janelle Martin said... you have me blushing! I'm in the process of trying to get my "older" posts up here as well.

BTW, this is a fantastic novel. I'd highly recommend it.

Lotus Reads said...

Good grief, Janelle! I can't keep up with you! :) Will have to come here on the weekend and read up all the delicious-looking reviews you've posted. Can't wait!

Janelle Martin said...

Ah well, these are not new reviews - rather older ones that I hadn't posted here. Just catching up so that I have a complete archive for my own uses. *wink*