Several years ago, I came across a series of books set in Hawaii, with a fiery police officer named Lei solving crimes. She was impulsive and impressive, a flawed human being who still rocked her job. At the time there were only 3 books in the series, now there are 12 with several companion books and an entirely new spinoff series featuring my ndfavorite supporting character from the Lei Crime series, Sophie Ang. Toby Neal quickly became one of my favorite authors, and I devoured each of her novels as soon as they came out, and her books are one of the very few authors I have on my preorder list.
Through book notes and social media, I’d gotten glimpses of Ms Neal’s life growing up in Hawaii, but social media is not a good way to get a full picture. When I learned she was writing a memoir, Freckled, I was thrilled and couldn’t wait to read it.
I was not disappointed.
Freckled, A Memoir of Growing Up Wild in Hawaii, details the years from 1969-1983. Toby was the oldest child of hippy parents, getting by as best they could on the remote island of Kauai. Her parents were drawn to the island to surf, but being Caucasian (haole) they aren’t welcomed by many of the locals and much of their life is influenced by not making waves and drawing attention to themselves. They live in poverty, and are often homeless.
There are so many powerful stories in this book, from abusive and neglectful parents, extreme joy and extreme grief, severe bullying and beautiful friendships. It is nonfiction that reads like an engrossing novel that you can hardly put down. So many parts of the book made me gasp audibly.
Through it all, though, the book is an illustration of perseverance and determination. Toby realized that she had to rely on herself to get what she needed, from harvesting hallucinogenic mushrooms for the local drug dealer and babysitting for extra money to save up for her own horse, to enrolling herself in school and being determined to succeed in order to get college scholarships and make something of herself.
About the author:
Toby Neal was born to hippie surfer parents and grew up on Kauai in Hawaii. She began
reading at four then wrote and illustrated her first story at five. As an adult, her unconventional upbringing helped her not only identify with her clients’ needs as a social worker, but also to create interesting characters and powerful stories that her readers devour. Holding degrees in psychology, human services, social work and creative writing, Toby is passionate about empowering writers.
Toby has published over thirty novels in a variety of genres, with many more in the works. The Lei Crime Series is a multi-volume, million+ selling police procedural mystery series situated in the Hawaiian Islands. It has won numerous awards including two Independent Publishing Awards (IPPY), and birthed the the Paradise Crime series spin-off. Toby also has a line of award-winning romances and has partnered on a series of popular romance thrillers.
Recently, Toby rolled her counseling and writing careers into the TW Neal WriterShrink™ brand, which includes nonfiction books, workshops, experiences, and coaching. The WriterShrink™ platform brings small groups of authors together for powerful motivational retreats as well as in-person and online workshops. WriterShrink™ retreat events combine Toby’s unique, deep counselling style with visiting experts, such as lawyers and agents at the forefront of publishing.