Kiana Davenport’s book House of Many Gods is a wonderful generational novel, beginning in the mid-Sixties and running to present day, along the Waianae coast of Oahu, a neighborhood largely unknown to the outside world. It houses the third-largest homeless population in the United States, made up of mostly ghettoized native Hawaiians. In this novel, set in a house shared by many and various mothers, their children and the occasional father, a story about a young girl takes place. Abandoned by her mother, she struggles within a culture clash within the only home she’s ever known, her expectations, the outside world, and how to love. During the book she finds a way through much of the tragedy and poverty around her to become a doctor, eventually connect the pieces of her life, and travels halfway around the world to rescue a man, also struggling in his native culture, that she’d refused to love. At least as important as the story she tells, Kiana’s descriptions and narrative, as lush and rich as a tropical rainforest, brings along the deep abiding spiritualism of a Hawaiian spirit subjugated by a profusion of foreign influences, from the missionaries to the more recent intrusions of Asian, and most of all, the United States, influences. It’s as if Kaui Hart Hemmings (The Descendants) meets Gregory David Roberts (Shantaram) in Hawai’i. I rank Kiana Davenport alongside my favorite, and most influential authors, Hemmings, Donna Tart, Marisa Pessl, and Dennis Lehane. This will be a read you cannot put down and will never forget.
As a side note, Kiana’s books about Hawai’i, especially this one, have influenced my new book, Enchanted. This review about a year and a half ago, and I feel as strongly about this book now as I did then.