Novel set in Maui offers nice, quick evening read


POSTED: Sunday, April 19, 2009

Here's a book that's better than its cover. I admit cringing when I took one look at the title and the offensive teaser: “;The best lei'd plans often go astray.”;




        ”;Here Today, Gone to Maui”;

By Carol Snow


(Berkeley Books, paperback, $14)




What self-respecting Hawaii resident would want to be seen toting something like this around, even to Waikiki Beach?

So I read it one wintry winter night under the cover of my grandmother's quilt, and you know what? I liked it. Or at least I finished it, which was more than I expected.

It might not be the best Maui book ever written, but it will do until the next one comes along. You won't learn anything about yourself, the world or how to salvage your 401(k), but it might distract you from your latest monthly statement. Isn't that enough to ask of fiction these days?

The heroine, plain Jane Shea, is heading off for a well-deserved vacation with her rather shaky boyfriend, Jimmy, and she's got big plans. Haleakala sunrise. Windsurfing. Horseback riding. Maybe a day with a book just like this one on Kaanapali Beach. She's thrilled but worried. Jimmy's not the brightest or straightest shooter, but at least he's taking her to Maui.

Things go wrong, of course. Plenty wrong. And that's really the pleasure of the book.

Jimmy turns out to be a double-dealing shark whose other girlfriend, Tiara, gets wind of his trip and decides to surprise him at the Hyatt. Awkward. Jimmy puts an unsuspecting Jane in a Kihei vacation rental unit as he tries to keep the two women from finding out about each other. Screwball comedy ensues, or would if Jimmy didn't suddenly disappear while snorkeling, presumably the victim of the other kind of shark.


Jane's crushed until she meets up with Tiara and the two start comparing notes. It turns out Jimmy's been impersonating a businessman named Michael who runs a company called Jimmies and who just happens to be vacationing in Maui at the same time.

The Maui police and media get wind of the story of the plain Jane, the bimbo and the presumably drowned man and pursue them relentlessly, while Michael—the businessman, not the impostor—tries to run interference for Jane, who just might be falling in love with him, sap that she is.

All of it's just a lot of silliness, but where the book strikes a right note is in its quick, pop-culture references. Jane can't tell the difference between “;Star Trek”; and “;Star Trek: The Next Generation,”; and she has some bitingly funny insights into a tourist's day in Maui: “;My condo sucked; my mask leaked. I should be cranky, whiny, and disillusioned. But it was impossible—because I was finally here in Maui.”;

In the end, Jimmy (the first one) might or might not be alive, and Michael (the real Jimmy) might or might not be realizing that he needs a commonsense, efficient woman just like Jane, but whether it's to be a love interest or a secretary is an open question. Doesn't really matter. You've just spent a nice, wintry evening under the covers with some light reading, and nobody has to be the wiser.