June 26, 2012
This is a fictional book set on Miramar, a tropical island that can only be based on real life experiences on Saipan. The story is told through Nina, a likable attorney who loses both her NYC job and her boyfriend and decides to accept a position on the island of Miramar 10,000 miles away.
Anyone who has left the states to work in the CNMI can relate to this book since Arin paints Nina's adventure realistically through the eyes of haole state-sider who is a bit of a nonconformist with an abundance of intelligence, a tad of selfishness and lots of personality.
The characters in the book are like many people that all of us who have lived in the CNMI know or know of. You know, the ones who strive to be the "big fish in a small pond", the ones who are fleeing their past, and the ones who are seeking paradise. Nina is probably the one who wanted to get away to make a new start and find herself after a series of painful losses.
The locals are also portrayed realistically – so real I was guessing who they might be. The description of the locals drinking beer and telling stories at the picnic table brought back fond memories. Nina works as a law clerk for a local judge. The office dynamics and crazy rulings described in the novel are typical of the CNMI. At one point, Nina says, "You have to be clever to make these nutty decisions sound legitimate." How many state-siders working in the CNMI have voiced a similar sentiment about their boss?
Glimpses into the lives of the foreign workers are scattered throughout the book. Arin touches on some of their distinct characteristics such as their pronunciation of words, which made me laugh hysterically since my Filipino husband pronounces sheets, "shits" and Daytona Beach, "Daytona Bitch", much to the amusement of my youngest daughter and to the horror of others. Arin describes one sombrero-wearing waitress as telling Nina that she was a mechanical engineer in the Philippines who earns more as a waitress in Miramar than she could as an engineer in her homeland. She also mentions the human trafficking and the fact that the foreign workers pay social security taxes and will never collect social security.
The book pokes fun at Saipan in a way that is funny and entertaining rather than offensive. In Tropical Depression the ridiculous island mascot, is a kangaroo, not unlike Saipan's ridiculous mascot, Saipanda. There are other unmistakably similarities between Miramar and Saipan – the signs with the missing letters, the cockfights, strip clubs, Liberation Day, karaoke, fruit bats and the stupid get rich schemes. So Saipan!
But this isn't just a book for those of us who have lived in "Miramar"– anyone would enjoy this book because it is laugh-out-loud hysterical, touching, and relatable. It has a great storyline, vivid characters, and is a delightful read. The only negative thing I can think of to say about the book is that it ends – it left me wanting more. You can buy it at Amazon here!