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Somewhere along the coast of Kaua'i lies a beach not of sand, but of glass. Countless polished fragments, tumbled smooth from the back and forth motions of the Pacific, provide a man-made wonder...and the backdrop for Jill Marie Landis' latest novel.
Right now, she would content herself with this symbolic task. Her hands itching to begin, she reached down and picked up a dinner plate, ran her fingertip around its decorative, scalloped edge. The heat of the sun, playing hide-and seek behind the drifting clouds, had seeped the into the pottery until it was warm to the touch.
[Elizabeth} drew her arm across her midriff. With a swift outward arc and a flick of the wrist, she released the disk and watched it sail through the air and then plummet over the edge of the cliff.
...She grabbed another plate, and then another, tossed them high and away, sent them sailing through the air to crash on the rocks below.
I didn't dare ask the undisclosed location of GLASS BEACH as I interviewed her via telephone. (What a shame that I couldn't fly to Hawaii, or even "settle" for her alternative residence in Long Beach, California.)
Although its north shore whereabouts is a closely guarded secret for natives of the tropical Hawaiian island, Jill willingly revealed that the site, littered with shattered china, may have been the grounds of a former pottery factory.
Two years ago, as she was contemplating the setting of her next novel, she passed the day on Glass Beach, staring out toward the infinite horizon and occasionally glancing at her sandals for a remarkable sea marble. Out of the corner of her eye, she caught sight of a blue and white chunk that was similar to dishes that she displays in her house.
Jill recalls, "Maybe it's a sign to finally write a novel set in these lush grounds that my husband and I call home a few months per year. I was always hesitant though, and finally chose to test fate. 'If I find one more bit of this blue and white, then I'll write the book.'"
The day concluded with an amazing sunset reflecting the vast spectrum of glass, but no sign. A few days later, while digging in the garden for some ginger, she struck something jagged. Brushing away the soil, her treasure was revealed...the blue and white chip to signify the root of a historical romance, set in the torrid tropics.
"I wanted a western saga set in the jungle," Jill affirms, so she delved into the paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) tradition, dating back to the 1830s. Cattle ranching still facilitates a quarter of the state's four million acres, but wrangling with volca- noes and the rising tourist expansion has made it less appealing to be a paniolo.
Ms. Landis accurately describes the ranching lifestyle of a hundred years ago. So she brilliantly depicts the men riding their horses along the coastline, dressed in white trousers and leather gaiters; they even don wide brimmed hats decorated with dried flower leis.
A melange of nationalities congregated on the island, some to make a living by herding cattle. Spanish speaking ranch hands from California taught the Hawaiians how to round up the imported cattle. Before long, however, breeding ran rampant, and sugar plantation workers of Japanese, Chinese, Phillippino, Portugese and Hispanic origin were helping to wrestle the livestock.
A major current in the novel is whether love has the power to overcome the struggle
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