Honolulu by Alan Brennert (2009)
Jin's abusive marriage wasn't the end to the trouble she and her fellow picture brides faced. Through it all, what struck me most was the kindness that the characters exhibited and the generosity they showed. The relationships between Jin and the other picture brides were quite touching.
Honolulu is not a long book, yet I'm amazed at how much story is contained in its 350 pages. It covered a very long period of time and so many things happened, yet it never felt rushed. Description and details aren't omitted either; in fact, it's incredibly atmospheric. It made me want to eat my way through Asia and the Pacific.
Most fascinating is the history. I know little about Korea, and I expected the position of women at that time to be poor, but I was truly surprised when Regret explained that women had to cover their faces with veils when they went out. Girls were allowed no education, little choice about who to marry, and were expected to always defer to their husbands. No wonder leaving for unknown shores to marry a stranger seemed so appealing.
I've been wanting to read this ever since I read the author's other novel, Moloka'i, and though that novel is no longer fresh in my mind I think Honolulu compares quite favorably. They are both fascinating stories, beautifully told.