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House of Thieves Hardcover – Bargain Price, June 16, 2005

28 customer reviews

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Hardcover, Bargain Price, June 16, 2005
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A dusty, dreamy Hawaii rife with sexual frustration, loneliness and adolescent heartbreak is the setting for the nine stories of Hemmings's bold debut collection. Misery adores company in "Final Girl," in which a single mother discovers a pornographic magazine in her 13-year-old son's room and turns on him despite herself, wishing he had more of "that character-developing sadness. Instead, he's a child who sings in the car." In the title story, intrepid preteen Kora is anxious to fit into her clique of Lolitaesque teenage friends—island girls "doing bad things in pretty places"—and is frightened of losing her best friend, Wendy, when Wendy's delinquent brother, Perry, resurfaces. In "Begin with an Outline," a girl is haunted by her imprisoned father, a notorious drug dealer; in "Island Cowboys," embittered, indebted Pete covets his brother's easy prosperity and finds forbidden solace in his niece. A 16-year-old boy pines for his social-climbing nanny in "Secret Clutch," only to discover that she has taken up with his wealthy father; a teenage girl and her father's mistress develop a disturbing bond in "Location Scouts." At times Hemmings steers her troubled protagonists in predictable directions, but overall these are fresh, acerbic tales, offering a distinctive perspective on everyday life in a vacation paradise. Agent, Witherspoon Associates. (June 20)
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From Booklist

Just as the individual land masses that make up the Hawaiian Islands are worlds unto themselves, so, too, are the characters Hemmings depicts in this penetrating exploration of the nature of families and the individuals who belong to them. Disappointment and isolation, frustration and regret inform each story's conflict, whether it is a father unprepared to raise his 10-year-old daughter while her mother lies in a coma, as in "The Minor Wars," or a pack of teenage girls flirting with independence in "House of Thieves." Hemmings takes her characters' cues from the composition of the islands she knows so well, their volcanic cores smoldering just beneath the surface, either forced to lie dormant or prone to violent outbursts. Set against the tropical backdrop of sun, sand, and surf, Hemmings' stories are all the more surreal for their perceptive juxtaposition of tumultuous emotions within such a seemingly benign paradise. With a dynamic and imaginative voice, Hemmings infuses her stories with keen insight, and lavishes her characters with profound empathy. Carol Haggas
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • ISBN-10: 1594200483
  • ASIN: B000EPFV9Q
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,591,629 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Kaui Hart Hemmings has degrees from Colorado College, Sarah Lawrence, and she was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. Her first novel, a New York Times bestseller, THE DESCENDANTS, has been published in twenty-two other countries and is now an Oscar-winning film directed by Alexander Payne and starring George Clooney. Her new novel, The POSSIBILITIES, is an Oprah and People magazine "must read" and has been optioned by Jason Reitman. Her debut YA novel, JUNIORS, comes out in September 2015. She lives in Hawaii. Follow:

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By A. Ross HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 1, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I picked up this book because I went to college with a lot of middle to upper-middle class Hawaiians, and found their background kind of interesting. The nine short stories in this debut collection tend to revolve around the uneasy interactions of teenagers and adults, and the fragile emotional negotiations involved on each side. Hemmings was raised in the upper-middle class Hawaii portrayed in most of the stories, and though she studiously avoids taking an anthropological view toward the setting and its inhabitants, they stories can't help but provide a sense of some of the identity complexities of the mixed culture. It's too her credit though, that while the Hawaiian setting adds an element of interest (I probably wouldn't have picked the book up had it been set in Ohio), the stories could easily be relocated without any thematic discord.

Loneliness, loss, and frustration, are three major threads established in the opening story, "The Minor Wars", in which a father and ten-year-old daughter struggle to coexist while their wife/mother lies in a coma. In the next story, "Final Girl", it's a mother and her thirteen-year-old son who are stuck together, long abandoned by their lover/father. It's a rather acerbic story, as the mother wishes rather meanly that her son had a little more sadness to him, a little more angst -- in other words, feels more like what she feels. In the title story the missing person is a legendary delinquent older brother, who reappears as a clique of 10-13-year-olds are holding a car wash. The story does a wonderful job of showing how a seemingly thrilling adventure into the world of teenagers can rapidly turn scary.

"Island Cowboys" is about an adults, but its narrator is a somewhat immature adult.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By TMF on March 5, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Kaui Hart Hemmings is a maestro of the poetic metaphor. I was thrilled to see House of Thieves after having read some of these great stories in literary magazines over the past few years. When I say she writes poetically, don't expect a drop of sentimentality. It's more in the `bon mot' sense that her prose cleverly articulates feelings and thoughts you might have assumed to be inexpressible.

These stories all take place in Hawaii, but not the Hawaii that you think you know(unless you are Hawaiian). This isn't tourists drinking Mai-Tai's or `exhaling;' it's people in their complicated lives written about intimately without affect. The author writes convincingly from the point of view of a variety of characters and each story creates its unique, entirely-human microuniverse.

Although it is almost always disingenuous to compare writers, it might still be edifying to give you a taste of what kind of ingredients you can expect to find in House of Thieves: Start with a dose of Russell Banks (circa Rule of the Bone), add an acerbic dash of Salinger, a touch of seductive glamour ala Fitzgerald, and perhaps a sardonic hint of pre-fall Winona Ryder in "Heathers."

After all the high-(and low-)fallutin' associations, I should just cut to the chase. This stuff is real. It pulls you in. Also, it made me laugh... a lot.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A. Alba on September 21, 2009
Format: Hardcover
House of Thieves is a nine story collection, all set in Hawaii primarily amongst upper-middle to upper class families. In Hawaii, the most important social unit is that of the `ohana, or family, and each of these stories highlights the divisive side of relationships between people in their respective `ohana. Feelings of isolation, frustration, resentment, loss, dishonesty and even hatred run through the pages of each of Hemmings' first-person narratives.

In "Minor Wars," a father reexamines his relationship with his daughter as his wife, her mother, lays dormant in a terminal coma. "Final Girls" continues with the parent/child dynamic as Emma, a descendant of one of the first missionary families, struggles with slowly being isolated from her son by his skin, his sex. "House of Thieves" tells of a group of teenage girls who "hitchhike around the island looking for surf and stuff to egg." This time the narrator is a 12-year old girl named Kora who watches as the family drama between her friend, Wendy, and Wendy's brother unfolds. As things go from romantic to exciting to dangerous, Kora reflects on how she never wants the adventure to end. The sibling conflict follows through in "Island Cowboys," a story of deep resentment in which you hear the uncomfortable thoughts of an adult brother who feels he sacrificed his desires to take care of the family as he justifies a slow, simmering hatred for the brother who left and now leads an idyllic life. The final revenge is both offensive and bittersweet. This is just a sampling of the first few stories in a collection that feels both provocative and familiar.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Crazy88Line Cook on December 15, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This collection of short fiction features a variety of dysfunctional family relationships in a tropical setting. All of the action takes place in Hawaii and the Island flora and fauna are nicely incorperated into the stories giving a real sense of place for the fully drawn charactors at the heart of each piece. "Blended" families are often a theme as well as the collateral damage done by divorce.The Author always has a point to make but leads the reader to it without overstatement. This is worth reading because it flows more seamlessly than other collections currently billed as "novels" because the stories are all inter-related.
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