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House of Thieves

3.55  ·  Rating details ·  463 ratings  ·  68 reviews
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 esta
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published June 16th 2005 by Penguin Press HC, The
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3.55  · 
Rating details
 ·  463 ratings  ·  68 reviews

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Aug 20, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: hawaii folks
Shelves: short-stories

Kaui Hart Hemmings makes me uncomfortable. Her stories are lovely: funny, clever dialogue; surprising characters; smart and engaging plots. One of my favorite bits from Minor Wars:

"Oh, mercy. I need to change some habits. I'm an ass," I say.

"You're my dad," Scottie says.

"Yes," I say. "Yes."

"You're a dad-ass. Like a bad-ass but older."

"Mercy," I say.

She makes good jokes. What leaves me unsettled about this book is that I don't recognize the Hawaii she writes here. At the heart of each of these s
Meredith Enos
Feb 02, 2018 rated it it was ok
This is the first work I've read by Hemmings. We are about the same age, and we went to rival high schools, and know some people in common--and the thing that struck me the most is just how different her Hawai'i is/was from mine. The wealth is a part of it (I don't think it's a spoiler if I tell you this collection could also be titled, The 1%ers of Hawai'i), as is the casual racism, the lifestyles, the willful ignorance and misinformation, the way Hawai'i and its people and cultures are just pr ...more
Jun 06, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2012, short-stories
I enjoyed the finely crafted prose and insider perspective on what it's really like to live in Hawaii. But is there some rule that short story protagonists have to be unappealing? Because we wouldn't spend a novel's worth of time with characters this unappealing but authors figure a short story is the right amount of time? That's my operating theory after reading this collection. Some characters were lovely and all were well-done and complicated, but I grew weary of spending time with the selfis ...more
Oct 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Collection of short stories by the author of The Descendents, which was adapted into the Alexander Payne film starring George Clooney. (I haven't seen it yet, nor have I read the novel. I need to get on both like yesterday.) The novel was based on the first story in this collection, The Minor Wars. I enjoyed the whole damn thing. I'd describe it as a sort of Hawaiian equivalent of that movie The Ice Storm, set in the late '80s/early '90s, against a beautiful, semi-exotic backdrop like the one on ...more
Pua Hawaiʻi Book Blog
Hemmings writes her stories with a tight narration, carefully choosing her words--stinging when she needs to and pulling back before the pain overwhelms. I found most of the stories easy to read and engaging, and in many cases consider them a different kind of escape. Instead of losing myself in a world of fantastic discovery, I found myself perversely enjoying entering into the thoughts of these characters and enduring the often awkward and frustrating attempts to connect in their stressed asso ...more
Laurie Hanan
Nov 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: just-finished
I’ll say right off I’m a big fan of this Kaui’s writing. I read this book because I was intrigued to learn it contains the short story which later became The Descendants. Throughout the book she realistically portrays every range of human emotions as her characters deal with situations and relationships that run from uncomfortable to gut wrenching. Yes, the back drop is scenic Hawaii and the characters are decidedly upper class. But they could be you or me, regardless of who we are or where we l ...more
Larry Dunlap
Jul 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely love everything Kuai Hart Jennings writes, and this collection of stories is no exception. These glimpses into the young people in the upscale Hawaiian communities show the normalcy of growing up in this exotic tropical paradise for what it is, not necessarily so different than anywhere else.
Oct 11, 2007 rated it it was amazing
This book is somewhat unsettling. It is very good, and Kaui is a bright young author, but be aware that the stories do not end where you'd think/hope they might. I am looking forward to reading her newest release.
Mar 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Not a fan of the short story but these gripped me from the first sentence.
MaryJo Gingras
Nov 15, 2017 rated it it was ok
Did not enjoy this book. It is a series of short stories that are not connected and don't really have good plots.
Katie Saesan
Jan 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
I love reading Kaui Hart Hemmings's work because they make me homesick for Hawaii, but her storytelling is also really incredible.
Aug 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: bought-it, 2018
Not all stories were 5 stars, but I love her writing, so I am rounding up!
Mar 20, 2012 rated it it was ok
There's much to be impressed with in Hemmings' debut collection of short stories. Hemmings, a former Stegner Fellow who went on to write the novel THE DESCENDANTS (also made into a movie starring George Clooney), clearly has a studied hand. The prose is generally clean and unadorned, but still finds its poetic breath; the characters are often surprising and frequently in crisis. The backdrop (Hawai'i) is probably intriguing to the vast majority of readers, whether they were born and raised there ...more
Abuela Linda
Written by the author of "The Descendants," House of Thieves consists of short stories about people who live in Hawaii, and live lives of separation, longing, loneliness, loss and basically broken lives. I wish there could have been one happy ending. My tolerance for depression is pretty high, but this book tested that tolerance. While I was reading this book, I felt like a voyeur, like someone listening next to a fence to stories unfolding in a house/garden next door--and not for public consump ...more
Aug 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
Definitely a worthwhile read, but it gets to be a bit much after awhile. It's all depressing and starkly real- maybe a little too real. It becomes difficult to read after awhile. The characters, the plotlines, the setting- it's overwhelming. Too harsh, too dramatic, too something.

Though I did love the last line of the collection, even if it was a bit heavy handed, the reference to "the sorrow that comes from loving a place that doesn't love you back." Beautiful.

Reading "The Minor Wars" was espe
Joseph Street
May 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
Not as uniformly enjoyable as "The Descendants", but still an fine collection of keenly observed, cutting stories about the bonds and betrayals within families. Interestingly, the story that later became "The Descendants" (called "Minor Wars") is among the weaker offerings -- it lacks the spark and warmth of the novel. The peculiar insularity of island culture and the still-festering grievances of Hawaiian history provide a crucial background -- the stories are universal in the sense that these ...more
Alex Williams
Apr 09, 2013 rated it liked it
Some of these stories were really good and I enjoyed several of them. A few were a little confusing or boring, like throne about the daughter and her father hosting a dinner party or the one about the woman who hangs out with her boyfriend's daughter at a funeral. But for the most part it was a good collection of short stories. Hemmings has a good way of ending a story- she leaves enough to mystery so that you'd still like to read more while at the same time leaving enough information about the ...more
Sep 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
For fans of her book "THE DECENDANTS" or fans of short stories, this would be a good read. The strongest stories Minor Wars (which is what The Descendants is based on) and Begin with an Outline are the reasons I've rated this so high. I also really liked The After Party. The rest of the stories are solid, but not as strong as the ones I've mentioned. They all share similar themes of family relationships/dynamics gone wrong and are all set in Hawaii. Based off these stories and The Descendants, I ...more
Dec 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
As with The Descendants, the language in this book is what makes the book. I am also amazed and impressed with how well Hemmings can change voice. She can write from the point of view of a 35 year old woman trying to get past her past, from the voice of a 13 year old girl or from the point of view of a man whose wife has just left him to take care of his 17 year old daughter alone.

The stories all make me want to visit Hawaii with their beautiful descriptions.
Mar 04, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: short-story
This collection of short stories revolved around dysfunctional, Haole people and families in Hawaii. The descriptions of Hawaii scenery and daily life, as well as the characters voices, were excellent. But all of the stories were depressing, and some were so much so that they were hardly enjoyable; plus, since they were short stories, they ended abruptly instead of providing a more pleasant resolution.
Richda Mcnutt
Mar 03, 2012 rated it liked it
From the author of "The Descendants," this book of short stories set in Hawaii, is a complex undertaking - primarily related to the dysfunctional family. Not many of the characters are very likable, but I did find myself feeling sympathy for most of them. They flounder in their relationships, and try to ignore their true feelings and motivations. No happy endings here - not really even any endings; only life as we hope we don't know it.
Bibi Rose
Jan 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I read this book while lying in my rented Waimanalo bungalow on a stormy January day. Hemmings's writing seems old-fashioned to me at times, like the sort of thing that used to be called K Mart fiction. In this case, maybe ABC Stores fiction? (not really-- I doubt whether most of these characters shop at ABC.) It sustains itself really well from page to page because of the fine-grained observation of lives in a demographic that hasn't been written about very much.
May 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
I was interested to read this short story collection because it was written by the author of The Descendants, which was made into a movie with George Clooney last year. I didn't think much of the movie but I sensed that it might not live up to the talent of the author, and I was right. These are excellent stories about family relationships and adolescence, about what it's like to live in Hawaii, about many things. Some of Hemmings' characters are outstanding - I enjoyed this very much.
Natasha Bailey
Nov 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I found this book by accident in the library and this author is amazing! Her style takes you to uncomfortable places yet you can't stop reading. Her descriptions transport you directly from the page to the scene. I begun compiling a notebook with lines from her books. House of Thieves is definitely a must read!
Mar 10, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-story
A book of short stories about messed-up families in Hawaii. Well done, but after reading about the author many of the "fictions" appear a little too close to real life. If you like the (depressing) movie The Descendants, which was based upon Hemmings' novel of the same name, you will like this also.
Mar 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I read this debut collection as an editorial assistant and it brought me to tears with its beauty. I just now realized she wrote te descendants and am now eager to read it. This short story collection was one of the freshest I have read in a long time.
Nov 09, 2012 rated it it was ok
It was OK. :-/ read it for my book club pick. Would not have read it otherwise. Not my kind of book. People whining about a life they can change. At least it was easy to read. I love my book club though!
Apr 02, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
While the stories are somewhat uneven, I enjoyed this book's local color. How often do we get to read anything set in Hawaii, a place that is at once both familiar and foreign to mainlanders like me?
Jun 05, 2014 rated it liked it
The first short story, "The Minor Wars," was the basis from what would become "The Descendants." I recommend this collection of short stories to those living in the Aloha State who like stories about dysfunctional families and relationships.
Nov 25, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2012, kindle-library
A couple really good stories and some duds. All about damaged rich people, most of whom are white and wish they were native Hawaiian.
Really want to read the Descendants; the Minor Wars was the best story of the bunch.
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I'm the author of The Descendants, House of Thieves, The Possibilities and Juniors, a YA novel. My next novel, How to Party with an Infant will be published August 9 2016. Visit my website:
“...we’re just kids growing up on an island, doing bad things in pretty places.” 8 likes
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