2005 Ka Palapala Po`okela Award for Excellence in Literature

Praise for
When Strange Gods Call


"Chun vividly evokes the lush, sensual land and effectively dramatizes the conflict between old traditions and fast-paced modernity." Booklist Reviews

“Lovers of a good romance—especially a good romance set right here in Hawai’i—will snap up this book just as lovers of historical fiction did Pam Chun’s first book, ‘The Money Dragon’…This is one for a quiet weekend, a box of chocolates and the couch.”
Honolulu Advertiser

"Good family epic enlivened with a nice locale and a stiff dose of history" Kirkus Reviews

“Pam Chun writes lovingly of Hawai`i—a land of beauty and tradition, where the scent of plumeria fills each page and a love once lost can be found again.”
Gail Tsukiyama, best-selling author of 5 novels including Samurai’s Garden and Women of the Silk

“When Strange Gods Call celebrates our power as humans. Pam Chun’s creative vision immediately draws us deeply into a world rich with meaning and emotion. Chun’s work is both entertaining and heartwarming. Enjoy a curl-up-in-bed-with-a-good-book-read.”
Francesca de Grandis, best-selling author of Be of Goddess and The Modern Goddess’ Guide to Life

“Pam Chun is a natural storyteller, something she must have inherited from her Hawaiian relatives who told ghost stories in the dark on the beaches of paradise. From the first shocking scene of When Strange Gods Call, Chun takes her art history sleuth, Miki Ai’Lee, through a haunted Hawaiik lush with passions of the past, culture clash, stormy spirits—and her own personal quest for Alex, the man she’s always loved. The writing is lyrical, like a Hawaiian melody, the sense of place makes me ache for the islands, and the mystical love story is reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet, blessed by the gods.”
Penny Warner, author of Dead Body Language, and the Mystery of the Haunted Caves.

“Chun makes the reader experience every exotic aspect of Hawi`i in this beautifully told love story.”
Louise Snead, Editor & Publisher of Affaire de Coeur

“One is deluged with the fragrance of Hawaiian flowers and the tantalizing smells from the lu`au in this riveting love story, a timeless classic of opposing families, between east and west.”
Terese Tse Bartholomew, Asian Art Museum of San Francisco

“Set in Hawaii, this is a stirring romance that involves lovers from two feuding families with all the intrigue and friction of Romeo and Juliet. Yet, this conflict is heightened by a clash of cultures. Ageless Chinese family expectations battle with the lure of American individualism. The resulting struggle between generations and traditions, complicated by strong personal feelings and desires, draws the reader into this story wondering just how it will be resolved, and if it ever will.
John Stucky, Librarian for the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco

"Conflicting cultures and generations of two powerful families converge in this
irresistible East-West love story, when 'strange gods' call Miki Ai'Lee back to her native Hawai'i to confront decades of conflict and pain in a sensuous landscape rich with haunting stories.”
Barbara Bundy, Ph.D., Executive Director, University of San Francisco Center for the Pacific Rim

When Strange Gods Call

Revised 2011 edition

When I was a child in Hawai`i, whenever our family gathered, the evening would end with stories. My grandmother, aunts, uncles, and parents remembered the Territorial Days when life was simpler—planting taro in the terraced rows, running barefoot, and climbing trees after school. But when the moon mounted the warm dark nights, my cousins and I craved the ghost stories for in those days, gods and goddesses, ghosts and spirits were very much alive.

After a sunset swim and barbecue on the beach, all of us gathered around the glowing hibachi coals, knee to knee in the darkness. Did we know that a little boy had drowned right here at this beach, an uncle would ask with a glint in his eye. We shivered when we heard the tale of how this seaweed-dripping ghost haunted the sea waiting for an unsuspecting victim.

On the way home, we would pass darkened houses, supposedly haunted. My father would point out trees where ghosts could be seen luring drivers.

When my father turned onto our street we were instantly silent when we passed the three old cemeteries and four temples and churches—a richly fertile haunt for spirits.

Early one morning, my mother’s cousin woke us with her frantic pounding on our front door. On her way to work, traffic had slowed to a crawl. A man and woman, drenched in blood, beckoned to all the drivers from the wall at Kipapa Gulch, a treacherous road. The couple had been driving home from a school meeting and died in a car accident the night before at that very spot. Her cousin had seen the couple’s spirits luring the morning commuters to “take their place.”

While the Chinese and Hawaiian ghost stories—of which our family had an endless supply—shaped our imaginations, we were trying to be as American as the people we saw on television and in the movies. Our school curriculum covered American history, not Hawaiian history. Our teachers emphasized speaking good English, not the pidgin we used to communicate with our friends and neighbors who spoke dozens of languages. But we always remembered that spirits inhabit trees, rocks, mountains, and the wind. Ghosts return to homes and roadsides. Strange gods and goddesses take human form to confound us.

Hawai`i is a mix of many cultures and languages from ethnically diverse lands of the Pacific. Perhaps it is Hawai`i’s tumultuous history—a Hawaiian kingdom overthrown by American businessmen, ruled by a Provisional government and a Republic, annexation, and Statehood—that allows us to be comfortable with both the mystical world of Hawai`i and the logical Western world of America. It has taught us that what matters most are the people and our ability to get along and adapt.

WHEN STRANGE GODS CALL takes place in the 1970s, a decade after Hawai`I has reached statehood, a time of transition, when generations struggle between cultures. For the older generation, the Confucian ethics of family, honor and scholarship conflict with the American goals of individuality and assertiveness. For the traditional Chinese, an individual is a part of the family unit; the Chinese culture values inter-dependence within the family, restraint in emotions and personal views, and conformity to the rules of good behavior. In contrast, Western culture values independence, autonomy, assertiveness and creativity and encourages each person to express their feelings and opinions. With each generation, children become more assimilated and westernized.

The central characters are Miki Ai’Lee, the great-granddaughter of a Chinese advisor to Hawai`i’s monarchy, and Alex Demming, son of the arch rivals of the Ai’Lees whose family has grown wealthy on the lands which had once belonged to Miki’s ancestors. Their childhood romance ends when Miki becomes a professor of art in San Francisco and Alex stalks high-stakes international art thieves. Years later, their paths cross at a time when both are faced with difficult choices: strong parental expectations at odds with their own desires combined with four generations of death and deceit between their families.

According to the 2000 U.S. Census, there are more Hawaiians living on the United States mainland than in Hawai`i. Even though we keiki o ka `aina—the children of Hawaii—have left the Islands for political, economic, or educational reasons, we have taken the tales and myths and legends of Hawai`i with us.

WHEN STRANGE GODS CALL evokes these ghosts and spirits of Hawai`i. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

The gods and goddesses, ghosts and spirits, however, are real.


Click book title below for Synopsis & Reader's Guide

Memoir, Aging Well, Distance Caregiving
In the early 1900s Woody grew up running barefoot in the lush valleys of Territorial Hawaii. From camping at Kailua Beach with his buddies to raising his family, he’s immersed in the exciting blossoming of the Paradise of the Pacific. But as he approaches ninety, he insists he’s too busy to die.
Fiction
When Strange Gods Call is a story of old family rivalries that threaten ill-fated lovers who defy generations of family hostility. Hawaii, a tropical paradise alive with history and myths, is the temptress that lures the lovers back and becomes part of this tale of love lost and rediscovered.
Historical Fiction
Chinese American financier and merchant Lau Ah Leong, an immigrant to Hawaii in the 1880's became one of the wealthiest men in Hawaii during a time of racial discrimination.