Houston (coauthor of Farewell to Manzanar, 1973) sets out on a journey around the Pacific Rim to explore the historical and cultural connections among the various countries and islands that surround the world's largest ocean. Along the way, he stops at Japan and the islands of Okinawa, Iwo Jima, and Ie-Jima; Jakarta and Bali in Indonesia; Saipan and Tinian in the Mariana Islands of Micronesia; Honolulu and Big Island in Hawaii; and his native California. Houston was drawn on this quest to look "for ways to see my family and homeland with clearer eyes," and in this richly anecdotal text he succeeds admirably. Recommended for all libraries.William L. Wuerch, Micronesian Area Research Ctr., Univ. of Guam
A delightful account of an idiosyncratic odyssey through island outposts in the world's largest ocean with the observant, low-key novelist Houston (Love Life, 1985, etc.) as an unfailingly congenial tour guide.
In company with his Nisei wife, Jeanne Wakatsuki, Houston headed first to her parents' homeland. Sojourning in Ibusuki (a part of Kyushu, which a local returning from the US refers to as "the Alabama of Japan") and later in Fukuoka (one of but four cities to host championship sumo wrestling tournaments), he finds himself wondering whether the island nation's backcountry is "too strange and perhaps more trouble than it's worth." Before Houston presses on alone, however, he and his wife make contact with friends of friends who renew their faith in the cultural and other ties that bind all peoples who live on the Pacific Basin, including those who, like the Houstons, are residents of America's West Coast. In Hawaii, he seeks out a woman who talks with rocks (volcanic or otherwise), an honored vocation in a venue where the legacies of Polynesia survive and thrive. Westering on, the author lights in Indonesia (where a native son lately back from L.A. shares rules of the road for traffic-jammed Jakarta) and Bali (whose Edenic setting belies its troubled history). Covered as well on Houston's overwater trek are the Marianas (Tinian as well as Saipan, where his daughter works at a resort catering to Asians on holiday) and the Ryukyus (Iwo Jima, Okinawa, et al.), where the ghosts of WW II can still disturb the sleep of visitors.
Good old-fashioned travel writing of the sort that combines personal observations on faraway places with astute commentary on what connects their past, present, and future.