Holly DeJong is widowed at thirty-five when her husband, Rob, dies of a heart attack after eating one too many cupcakes. Rob has also left behind their two children, Robbie and Claire. Everyone in the small town of Stanville believes that Holly is doing a remarkable job handling her husband’s death, which occurred almost seven months ago.
Holly displays some erratic behavior one day when she destroys several boxes of cupcakes at Smiley’s General Store, angry that cupcakes robbed her of her husband. Word travels fast in Stanville, and soon enough everyone knows about Holly’s “incident” – now they are wondering if she really is off her rocker.
Understandably, Holly is still going through the grieving process of losing her husband, as are her children at the loss of their father. Holly and her children clash in various instances because Holly wants to move past grieving Rob and the children are not ready yet. They are angry that Holly sold the family business and that Holly has given away most of their father’s possessions.
Complicating the dynamics are Holly’s two sisters, Pam and Emma. Pam recently left her husband after many years of marriage and is back into the dating scene. Emma is married to Troy, and their arrangement is reminiscent of the Brady Bunch ,with each spouse bringing their own children into the marriage. Last but not least is their mother, an elderly but energetic woman who runs her own tea and coffee shop. Holly and her sisters lost their father to an aneurysm several years ago, and Holly still misses her father very much.
Things start to liven up for Holly when Deputy Nathan Westmoreland befriends Robbie to help him avoid becoming an “at risk” teen after a shoplifting incident at Smiley’s General Store. While Holly is reticent about Nathan’s relationship with her son (she does not want Robbie to become too attached), she cannot help but feel an attraction to Nathan. Happiness eludes Holly until she realizes that happiness comes from “learning to hula” - swaying with the opportunities that life presents to her.
Learning To Hula, while a book about the grieving process and losing a loved one, is also a book about family relationships and taking new chances in life. The small town atmosphere lends a cozy feel to the book, and the dynamics of Holly’s family (especially her sisters) are often amusing. There are not many surprises in this often predictable book; that said, this is about the journey, not the destination, and Learning to Hula is an enjoyable read if the reader keeps that in mind.