Contemporary Women's Fiction
Published by: Milbrown Press
Publication Date: November 18, 2021
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-9906893-3-1
Ebook ISBN: 978-0-9906893-7-9
Paperback Trim: 6" x 9" - 492 Pages
Available: All major retailers;
Wholesale via Ingram; Overdrive.
hula girls, a novel
written by eric b. miller
Claudia Wyler is a young navy wife living in Hawaii in 1941, striving to be the perfect helpmate to her ambitious husband. She believes devoutly in the dictates of “The Housewife’s Pledge” and embraces the gender roles, social mores, and cultural norms of pre-feminist America. She seeks guidance in The Newlywed Cookbook and Woman’s Home Companion, and finds solace for her failings in the weekly delivery of Life magazine.
Spanning wartime Hawaii to mainland America in the 1950s, Hula Girls presents one woman’s unique perspective on love between men and women, independence and relationships, and the values that continue to fail her. When events overturn her world and she is left without the protections afforded women of the time, Claudia enters a downward spiral of degradation in a struggle for life that becomes a poignant story of obsession, sacrifice, and a mother’s love.
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praise for hula girls
RECOMMENDED by the US Review of Books
book review by R.J. Johnson
"When Joe tried to strangle her, she did what any woman would do. She crossed him off her list."
This character-driven novel explores the social and psychological terrain of a gorgeous, American military housewife in Hawaii in the 1940s. Every plot turn is thought-provoking. Mrs. Claudia Wyler transforms significantly. She starts out eager to please her handsome husband, clumsy in her efforts, and apologizing all the time. Meanwhile, U.S. Navy Lieutenant Jack Wyler is having an affair and demands that Claudia be more competent. Though double standards of the era stifle Claudia, she is a sharp judge of character. She is also charming. However, the picture-perfect dream of the little white house in Hawaii is a façade, and the couple struggles to thrive in the hypocritical, pre-war U.S. Navy social scene.
After tragedy strikes, Claudia's way of coping with her shock and grief compels the reader to feel tender compassion for her predicaments. Yes, Claudia has flaws, but they inspire humor, even if it is sometimes dark. In the middle of a crisis, Claudia is admirably cool and clever. She makes it through the roughest challenges and still feels a sense of devotion in shining her husband's shoes.
In the aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Claudia grows closer to her neighbor Mary Ann, who has also lost her husband. Readers fall in love with Mary Ann, too. These women work together to survive. They get jobs, smoke Chesterfields, and transform from housewives to working women. But no matter how hard they work, they can't make rent. To what lengths must they go just to survive? Plus, is there another baby on the way? Where are the men? This novel is an emotional journey with great storytelling and a satisfying ending. It can inspire readers to contemplate gender roles and conflicts arising from World War II that have left an impact on our world today.
A debut novel tracks a brave and resourceful woman from right before the Pearl Harbor attack through the next 30 years.
When readers first meet Claudia Wyler in Hawaii in 1941, she seems like a real ditz. Her husband, Navy Lt. Jack Wyler, proves to be a controlling and abusive jerk. Then one day, they hear explosions: The Japanese are bombing Pearl Harbor. The couple survive the assault, but Jack is soon killed in a car accident. Claudia is on her ownin Hawaii, getting a slim widow's pension of two bucks a month. Her life then truly begins. At the start of the story, she is an avid reader of women's magazines that advise her on how to be a perfect wife. And at the end? Well, the destination, as they say, is not as important as the journey. This woman who was born to East Coast privilege learns to be a remarkably good car mechanic, works as a dishwasher in the Grand Hawaiian Hotel, joins a chorus line, and turns into a superb choreographer. And, after hitting rock bottom, she becomes a sex worker, desperately leading a double life. Along the way, she serves as the de facto mother of Edgar Lee, the son of a deceased friend. To say that Claudia is treated shabbily (and worse) is an understatement, but she comes to embody Nietzsche's famous dictum: Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger. The tale's point of view is Claudia's, and Miller loves to play with clichés ("Claudia thought her can of worms was nothing like Annette's kettle of fish") and delightful figurative language (at Adm. Harris' reception and dance, "the presence of a powder room had eddied a flotsam of ladies"). The author also provides nostalgic period touches, like Ipana toothpaste and Chesterfield and Old Gold cigarettes (the players smoke all the time), so that readers get the sense of being enveloped in a long-ago era. There are skillfully drawn characters, some mysterious and scary like Mr. Anthony and others loyal to the end, such as Annette Anisinelli, Claudia's best friend. Though it covers only three decades, this story has the feel of a saga and is as satisfying as one.
A wonderful evocation of a time and place and a woman's indomitable spirit.
blueink starred review
Eric B. Miller
Millbrown Press, 490 pages, (paperback) $19.41, 9780990689331
(Reviewed: January, 2022)
Eric B. Miller’s Hula Girls delivers an engrossing epic about a young Navy wife who grapples with her life in Honolulu amidst the outbreak of WWII.
Happily married, 23-year-old Claudia Wyler spends her days perusing the pages of Woman’s Home Companion and waiting for her husband Jack, an ambitious junior officer, to arrive home for dinner. Her life revolves around him as she strives to be the perfect wife. In her perspective, “husbands went to work somewhere every day, getting their buffaloes, and the wives stayed home to keep the lid on everything.”
Following the Pearl Harbor attack and the loss of her husband, Claudia must learn to survive independently. She becomes closer with her newly widowed neighbor, and the two enter the workforce, where Claudia proves to be a surprisingly adept auto mechanic. Yet financial obstacles persist, leading Claudia to a double life as a sex worker; she subjects herself to degradation and danger, despite the possibility of security with a serious suitor. Throughout this downward trajectory, she remains determined to prevail.
Claudia is an unforgettable character. A Sweet Briar graduate, she’s more intelligent than some of her scatterbrained antics might indicate and adept at responding to crises, even if in an unorthodox way. Although she obsessively holds on to memories of the past, she forges forward on her journey from self-absorbed to self-sacrificing.
Despite the book’s length, short chapters and surprising twists keep the story moving, while pop culture references skillfully evoke the era. As events develop, Miller subtly reveals details that shed greater light on past occurrences. A superb storyteller, the author indulges in dry humor and wordplay, writing, “Claudia thought her can of worms was nothing like Annette’s kettle of fish, but they felt free to speak in an advisory capacity about what they had in their buckets.”
This is an immersive novel that examines how one reconciles with the past, while providing insight into American women’s changing roles in the mid-twentieth century.