Linda Ching Sledge brings a unique immigrant saga to life, sweeping readers into a colorful culture rich with customs, and presenting an epic tale of a family's struggle to survive and love.

Exiles from their native China, Rulan, an ex-concubine and Pao An, a warrior, flee the tyranny of their old world hoping to find a wonderful new life in Hawaii, the blessed island.

Separated by fate, Rulan becomes a servant for a kindly missionary in Hawaii, while Pao An is shipped off to California to work in the gold fields. He hopes his five years of servitude will quickly pass, and he will be reunited with Rulan and their child. Both Rulan and Pao An face great hardships, encounter old and new enemies while never giving up hope, even when each is led to believe the other is dead. Reunited, they embark on a new chapter in their lives, on their own for the first time. But they are not truly alone, for they have their daughter, Molly.

Born in the hills near a sacred mountain, Molly is raised in a white man's household, coddled and educated as befits a wealthier young woman, not a servant's child. She is the new generation-a child who loves the freedom and glorious world opening up on the island. She is in constant conflict with her "old world" parents.

Falling in love with a poet close to the king brings Molly into a dangerous circle. The strange relationship she has with Lincoln, the young boy adopted by her father in California, makes her question what she wants from life.

Like The Joy Luck Club, A MAP OF PARADISE explores the complicated relationships between mother and daughter, between old world and new. With James Michener-esque drama and Pearl Buck-like careful detailing, Ms. Sledge creates a colorful, intriguing world a reader will gladly enter, filled with fascinating characters and the broad sweep of history that holds you captivated. This is wonderful entertainment. (Sept., 402 pp., $13.95)

Reviewed by: 
Kathe Robin