House of Thieves by Kaui Hart Hemmings

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These unique stories of upper-class Hawaiian families reveal with unsentimental insight and straightforward prose the complex forces that bind family members together in love and hate.

Like the fierce, powerful, young characters that appear in her stories, Kaui Hart Hemmings demands our immediate attention. In this exciting debut collection of short stories, Hemmings establishes herself as one of the most original, unapologetic, and honest young voices to come out of the next batch of freshly schooled fiction writers. A member of upper-class Hawaiian society, she has set the beautiful island as a backdrop, indeed a foil, to describe the small torments and victories of growing up and finding one's place. Bold, frustrated teenagers and the adults who raise them wrestle with one another over the age-old issues of deprived freedom, misguided love, being cool, and being true, and they experience together the loneliness of feeling miserable in paradise.

Hemmings's tart, confident voice plunges us headfirst into the unfamiliar world of a Hawaii far from the tourist track, providing revealing glimpses of the island's divisive racial and class issues as well as the proud heritage of kings and warriors and the legacy of colonialists and missionaries. Her unceremonious dealing with issues like drugs, sex, and abandonment, and her entirely unselfconscious prose allow her stories to wash effortlessly over us like an ocean wave, always leaving behind an unusual shell, a curiously shaped rock--something to ponder that is fascinating and true.

A single mother's discovery of a pornographic magazine in her thirteen-year-old son's room sends her down a spiral of jealousy that ultimately guarantees her loss of him. A white man who is left by his native Hawaiian wife struggles to understand why he and his daughter, abandoned together, feel such deep resentment for each other. A boy who insists on the illusion of his happy family suddenly recognizes his father's lack of real love and comes to the understanding that certain things are severed and they can't grow again, the acknowledgment of the waste that comes from loving a place that doesn't love you back.

The stories in House of Thieves are told from varied points of view--a father, a child, a young woman, an adolescent boy, and more. Rooted in the circumstances and situations of island people, Hemmings's sharp and entertaining stories reveal the mundane cycle of small tragedies and victories that make up the lives of ordinary people everywhere.

About Kaui Hart Hemmings

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Kaui Hart Hemmings is the author of the critically acclaimed short-story collection "House of Thieves," Her work has been published in Z"oetrope, Best American New Voices," and "Best American Nonrequired Reading," Hemmings grew up in Hawaii and lives with her husband and daughter in San Francisco. "From the Hardcover edition.
Published April 9, 2012 by InkWell Publishing. 268 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Incestuous impulses rumble through the nine stories like molten rock on the move, seismic warnings that go unheeded: an uncle makes out with his teenage niece while high on the magic mushrooms she introduced him to;

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The New York Times

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For stories about teenagers, the effect is fittingly plaintive and strong, but sometimes one detects something of the college creative-writing class in the style, in the way Hemmings, who is 28, has tightened each story, sped it up and sprinkled in surprising details until the prose attains a poi...

Sep 04 2005 | Read Full Review of House of Thieves

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