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Between Sky and Sea: A Family’s Struggle

Between Sky and Sea: A Family’s StruggleBetween Sky and Sea: A Family’s Struggle
Donald Carreira Ching
ISBN: 978-0-910043-93-9
192 pages

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Set in contemporary Hawai'i, BETWEEN SKY AND SEA: A FAMILY'S STRUGGLE is an episodic novel that tells the story of three brothers struggling to negotiate their identities in the wake of cultural loss, drug addiction, and family tragedy.

When personal conflict leads Ka'eo Teixeira to question the choices that he has made while exploring his cultural heritage, he abandons those that he cares for in pursuit of his own path forward; a decision that ultimately leaves him guilt stricken and alone, and in the company of a high-school friend and noted meth dealer.

As rumors of Ka'eo's whereabouts begin to surface, Mark, the second oldest, grapples with the responsibilities that he has to his family and the independence that he has been working toward his entire life, with a sudden loss forcing him to accept actions and events that are beyond his control.

Consumed with grief and anxiety over their family’s decay, Elani, the youngest of the three, denies his present and takes on a new identity elsewhere. But when news of his brother’s fate leads him to confront his past, Elani returns to discover his future in the wreckage of a life left behind.

An account of a family’s fight to persevere, BETWEEN SKY AND SEA captures the difficulty of recovering what matters most from the depths of what remains when all that’s left to find is ashes.

Donald Carreira Ching was born and raised in Kahalu'u. He graduated with his BA in English and his MA in Creative Writing from the University of Hawai'i at Manoa, where he also received the Myrtle Clark Award with distinction and the Sumie Saiki Award for Fiction. His short stories have appeared in numerous publications and anthologies locally and elsewhere, including Bamboo Ridge, Hawai'i Review, Rio Grande Review, and on the radio program, Aloha Shorts. In 2012, he was selected as the runner-up in the Honolulu Weekly fiction competition, was selected as the winner in the Star Advertiser’s Halloween Fiction contest, and was voted the Best Writer in Pidgin 2012 in Honolulu Weekly’s “Best of Honolulu.” In 2014, he won the Ian MacMillan Fiction Competition. He currently lives and teaches on O'ahu.

They were careful to keep to the main channel. Mark avoided the reef while Elani watched the shadowed depths. The moon was hidden behind a bright veil of gray, the light still fell over the ocean in pale stretches, making their path forward clear. When they could make out the strip of sand where the islet split, Mark cut the engine and let the current guide the hull until they were close enough to anchor, Elani hopping out to make sure that the boat was secure.

On the shore, Elani walked up to a spot that faced Kualoa Beach. He looked back at the silhouette of the world that they had left behind and couldn’t help but appreciate the quiet. He could hear the breeze, but more than that, he could feel his body pulsing in his ears, echoing with the movement of the waves. He understood now why their brother had been drawn there. Elani could feel its presence in his marrow.

Elani turned back and crossed the sand, climbing up to meet Mark. His brother was waiting for him near a cluster of black rock that protruded up from the ocean, the waves churning below. Elani crouched down and looked out at the ocean. The water was rougher here, deeper.

“I wouldn’t have made it,” Elani remarked, thinking about how his brothers used to race out to the island when they were kids. “Not out here, not by myself.”

“Was some close calls,” Mark looked down at his right arm, the scar lost to the hour. “But out hea, we was never alone, ah?”

Elani nodded. “I took that for granted,” he licked his lips, tasting the salt air. “All these years.”

“No need fo tell me,” Mark admitted, stepping out to the edge. “But not tonight,” he added. “Not anymore.”
"...unsparing first novel..." HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER, Sunday, August 28, 2016


BETWEEN SKY AND SEA is a story of three brothers, contemporary Hawaiian men, who represent the modern struggles of indigenous peoples while remaining indelible and singular characters. This unflinching portrait studies how loss, addiction, violence, and a brutal colonial history affect generations of a single ‘ohana. Yet the novel offers hope, too, for its characters and its readers, and the islands themselves.

—Kristiana Kahakauwila, author of This is Paradise


This triumphant debut novel reminds readers of a truth that must be hammered home as long as stories about this place are told: the Hawai‘i of dream vacations is no more real to local residents than the nostalgic vision of an idyllic past. BETWEEN SKY AND SEA serves, along with Tyler Miranda’s ‘EWA WHICH WAY, as an announcement that Bamboo Ridge’s next generation of great local writers has arrived.

—Mark Panek, author of Hawai‘i: a novel


The consequences are devastating as brothers Ka ¯‘eo, Mark, and Elani have to choose between the modern and ancient worlds, between losing oneself to one’s pursuits and coming home. They go their separate ways, try to leave family behind, but find themselves inexorably linked in efforts to make things right. This is a disquieting novel, a quiet triumph.

—Rodney Morales, author of The Speed of Darkness and When the Shark Bites


BETWEEN SKY AND SEA is a story of guilt, loss, and redemption in a world where Native Hawaiian and American cultures collide, causing resentment, confusion, and ultimately, understanding. It’s a brilliant rendering of what it means to be Hawaiian, what it means to be family, and what can be the burden, heartbreak, and unbreakable bond of being brothers.

—Chris McKinney, author of The Tattoo, The Queen of Tears, Bolohead Row, Mililani Mauka, and Boi No Good


Donald Carreira Ching’s ability to imbue measured and unsentimental prose with such depth of feeling is the sign of a real talent. Through the perspectives of three brothers in Hawai‘i, readers are gifted with a powerful story of how we reconcile ourselves with our land, our culture and the ones we love.

—Shawna Yang Ryan, author of Water Ghosts and Green Island


By binding us tightly to three brothers occupying very different, sharply invoked spaces in Hawai‘i, BETWEEN SKY AND SEA shows us much more than a family’s struggle. As we feel the pressures that shape each of these young men, we also come to recognize the relations between people and place, between parents and children, and between desire and duty that make Donald Carreira Ching’s first novel a study in intimacy, and a vivid full-length portrait of contemporary Hawai‘i. A careful, passionate, and memorable book.

—Craig Howes, Department of English, University of Hawai‘i at Ma¯noa


BETWEEN SKY AND SEA: A FAMILY'S STRUGGLE is about love and despair, about the hardships and rigidities of the human condition. But, ultimately, this is a story about the depth of love and the unfailing beauty of promise, loyalty, and hope. It is a story told by a writer who has an ear sensitive to the voices of our contemporary Local community and to the rhythms of an ancient land tempered by a healing sea.

—Gary Pak, author of The Watcher of Waipuna, A Ricepaper Airplane, Children of a Fireland, Language of the Geckos, Brothers Under the Same Sky


In this perspectival account of three brothers, Donald Carreira Ching shows real talent for channeling his characters so thoroughly that he manages to keep out of their way. Reality, this novel of between-ness reminds us, is always far more complex—and far more interesting—than any single version of it.

—M. Thomas Gammarino, author of Big in Japan and Jellyfish Dreams