Winner of the Hawai‘i Book Publishers Association Ka Palapala Po‘okela Honorable Mention Award for Excellence in Literature
The koa canoe is one of the most important symbols in Hawaiian culture today, a link between Hawai‘i's simpler past and its sophisticated present. Ian MacMillan takes us over to Moloka‘i where a crew of misfit paddlers—women who are dealing with alcoholism, divorce, depression, and more—find an old koa canoe stored in a rundown shed. In a powerful and gripping story centered around the canoe, MacMillan puts us in the boat with the crew. First, we train, and then we paddle in the world championship of outrigger canoe racing, the Moloka‘i to O‘ahu race. A symbol of life, the koa canoe changes each woman, helping her to refocus her life. As they cross Ka Iwi Channel, they leave their misfit status behind in the wake of the canoe. In the midst of his story, MacMillan thoroughly documents the sport of outrigger canoe paddling as only an insider could. He's been there and done that and we ride with him through one of the best accounts of paddling the channel in Hawaiian literature. The Seven Orchids entertains and educates us at the same time. You couldn't ask for more. — John Clark, author of six books on Hawai‘i's beaches
A sense of purpose crystallizes for each of them when the central character, Danielle (personal issue: alcoholism), discovers an old koa canoe hidden beneath seven orchid plants and other overgrowth on her father's land. The women embrace the sad, romantic history of this vessel, and in restoring it and taking it into the waves, each of the seven reclaims her soul. MacMillan skillfully weaves together his story's many threads, building to the drama of the channel crossing on race day.
Authors promote island tales - Honolulu Star-Bulletin
In the midst of his story, MacMillan thoroughly documents the sport of outrigger canoe paddling as only an insider could. He’s been there and done that and we ride with him through one of the best accounts of paddling the channel in Hawaiian literature. The Seven Orchids entertains and educates us at the same time.
Life in a Canoe - UH Publications
What makes the book work is MacMillan's ability to hear people think. As in his previous Hawai'i-based works, "The Red Wind" (Mutual, 1998) and "The Braid" (Mutual, 2005), MacMillan's characters are made up of sharp edges and secrets, stories they'd like to forget, flaws and failings. Though one or two border on stereotype (a pair of valley girls who fall in love with a couple of local boyz), most of the people in this book resemble the rest of us — complex, difficult, disappointing, ceaselessly interesting and sometimes pleasantly surprising.
'Orchids' captures Hawai'i's people - Honolulu Advertiser
MacMillan, who teaches fiction writing at the University of Hawa‘i-Manoa and whose recent novels include The Braid and The Red Wind, is at his best when he takes the time to describe real action and emotion. Much of what has come before is in rushed back-story or quick dialogue, but in the channel, MacMillan finds his pace ...
Rough Water - Honolulu Weekly