Review: ‘How the Hula Girl Sings’

Literature classes will often teach you about classics. They tell you exactly which ruggedly-bound books tell the stories that we’ll be analyzing for ages. It is not often that one will run into a contemporary novel of such unapprehended glory. “How the Hula Girl Sings” is one of those novels.

I picked up the Joe Meno book not because of the cover (the cover is rather girly), but because Meno is an author I have come to trust. With books like “Hairstyles of the Damned” and “Tender as Hellfire,” Meno has shown an ability to characterize everyone perfectly, from the mind of a twelve year old, to the angst of adolescence, and now, into the regrets and remorse of an ex-con. In “How the Hula Girl Sings,” Meno’s small Illinois town characters come to life with very real feelings and emotions along with unique mannerisms and speech. Every character will give a reaction within the reader’s thoughts with each time his or her name is printed in small black ink.

Symbolism plays a more underlying role, maybe giving homage to the classical literature that “How the Hula Girl Sings” so obviously should be a part of. Between religious imagery with alternating pictures of Mother Mary throughout the novel or the much deeper meaning behind prison tattoos, Meno finds various ways to express desperation and hope at the same time. Even eerie poetry written on the gas station price sign hint at something much deeper.

Now, beyond all the characterization and symbolism, “How the Hula Girl Sings” was simply a good book. The story flows with unending passion, hooking the reader in right from the first chapter. I stayed up until 2 a.m. on a school night just to finish the book. Beginning, middle, and end I suggest “How the Hula Girl Sings” to the biggest literature nerd to the most casual reader alive.