Chicago native Rochelle DuFortier likes to imagine the future, her world a series of picture postcards so vivid they sometimes seem real. When a foolish mistake at thirteen causes her mother’s death, she’s sent to a secluded Hawaiian valley, an outsider “haole-girl” among pidgin-speaking boys who hurl flaming papala spears under the full moon to summon her mother’s spirit. After boarding school and a prestigious university back east, the ambitious young woman is torn between chasing new career opportunities, discovering her mother’s heritage in a remote French village, and meeting obligations pulling her back to Hawaii.
On this island steeped in ancient mythology and modern superstition, Rochelle tests the possibility of sharing pieces of her life with those whose beliefs she barely understands and never intends to embrace. She dives the depths of a pristine coral lagoon, conceals bodies in a subterranean lava tube, and challenges the eruptions of a living volcano, even as she deciphers the truth about her mother’s death and struggles to satisfy new debts born of old betrayals.
Papala Skies is the story of a young woman who makes all the right choices, only to find herself living an unexpected life. It is about the need to belong, and seeking one’s own version of truth amid such differing cultures’ responses to wrenching loss and abiding grief. It is about yearning for a sense of place, yet having to confront new ways to honor the love of family and friends.
Will Rochelle lose what matters most, or might she learn what the smart octopus already knows?
Rochelle looked up and saw Mikalu standing directly above the raging river of fire. She tried to wave him down, but he braced himself and began pounding at the hardening crust.
She whirled in time to see neon rivulets spiderwebbing down from the upper wall. Farther up, the caldera boiled and churned, eruptions hurling fireworks to the sky, white-hot stars raining from tephra clouds.
“Run!” Rochelle shouted, everybody sprinting across the deadly terrain.
They bounded across and leaped, the flow already widening. Everybody had made it out—
“Mika!” she screamed, her words carried into eddies of ash-choked wind.
She caught a glimpse of him through the mist, watching her from the fire, and for an instant she believed what Pocomea had told her . . .