House Of Thieves


West Maui Book Club Discussion Questions

Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Aloha and mahalo for visiting our site!

Any page numbers refer to iPad edition.

1 “House of Thieves” is as much a fully crafted work of art as any other medium. For instance, in the short story “Location Scouts”, the author reveals (Pg 192) through Auntie Fat that “all Hawaiian words had double meanings”. In this particular story’s case: the Hawaiian word “limu” refers to both seaweed and pubic hair”. Understanding this, what were the double meanings in each of the stories and how well did this work for you in making sense of the story’s plot or having it come full circle for you?

2 This collection of nine short stories focuses on the local Hawaiian-island lifestyle of some born here and some not. Which short story stood out the most for you and why? Share how you felt about the story, the characters and the conflict/resolution.

3 After reading all nine stories, did you get a real sense of what life is like in the Hawaiian Islands, particularly Oahu and The Big Island? Did it catch its flavor? How does that compare to elsewhere and how is it different?

4 After reading this novel, to which age group do you feel it best appeals?

5 “Minor Wars” went on to become the movie “The Descendents” starring George Clooney. If you saw the movie, can you now also see how it developed with this one as its base? (If you haven’t seen the movie, we hope you do.)

6 “Minor Wars” takes on many struggles: the ones happening between family members, the ones between husband / comatose wife, and daughter / wife’s supposed lover, plus others. But is revealed as a play on words (Pg 21) with man-of-war, “they were like tiny soldiers with impressive weapons – the gaseous bubble, the whiplike tail, the toxic tentacles, advancing in swarms”. Did you find that the trauma this entire family faced resembled in any way the description given above for the man-of-war? Explain.

7 “Final Girl” -- the term -- is revealed by Emma in the story of the same name to be the “girls in horror films who don’t get killed.” But with Hawaiian history in mind, what does this story really represent? Consider that she (the Hawaiian) and teased with being called “Ms. Manifest Destiny” in the 9th grade while Ben (Keoni’s Moorean father) is “the Missionary”.

8 “Final Girl” -- Keoni is growing up, although Emma is struggling to keep him longer as her boy. They argue and Emma angrily tells him she is sending him to his long lost father to learn that side of himself. It’s a lie but she wonders “if this is how her parents felt when they lied to her” about doing everything possible to keep Ben in their lives. Their conflict softens when Keoni introduces Emma to his friend Kayla, a girl who Emma says will help him find an identity “but for one night only”. So who is the Final Girl? Emma or the one who there to help him identify with his future?

9 “House of Thieves” presents numerous examples of thievery going on, although Pete is the only one who is actually called one…he stole a car. Can you point out some other people who are stealing and why? For example: the girls (Kora, Wendy, Belle, and Nicole “hold carwashes to raise money for summer concerts and Budweiser but if any customer asks, the money is for children with some sort of disease.” (Pg 57)

10 “House of Thieves” -- Did you know that the town Haleiwa as mentioned in this novel translates as “House of Thieves”?

11 “Island Cowboys” brings to light the issues between brothers Pete and Kimo but how did it make you feel the way Pete settles his idea of revenge? How are the two so different or alike and even though Kimo is telling Pete how to resolve his own issues, why does Pete fail?

12 “Begin with an Outline” is an actual outline but collectively becomes a full, revealing story. Hemmings writes that “lies taste good” and in the end describes the sky as “rusting aluminum, like bananas – small sweet lies. This is as close as I’ll get to his home, my home, a place I truly don’t remember that well, Mr. Bernard, but I hope this outline helps.” So has she lied to Mr. Bernard about her father, or has she told him everything he needed to know, particularly in the sections “What does she want?”, “Denouement” and “Epiphany”?

13 “Begin with an Outline” -- aside: since we all live or own seasonal homes here, how many times have you played the “Halfway to Hawaii” game and how many times have you won? (me many and won only once.) Do you know if Hawaiian Airlines is still playing that game? Last time I flew, it wasn’t announced.

14 “Secret Clutch” is another fine example of Hemmings’s use for double meanings with Noe asnd the envy of expensive purses playing a role. But, apart from using one of Kent’s grandfather’s contributions in a 1942 book titled “Killing with Your Bare Hands”, how do you think she handled Kent’s separation anxiety?

15 “Secret Clutch” suggests that Hawaii’s lifestyle is “the great island tournament of pleasure”. Can you relate to this? How so?

16 “Ancient Weapons” is truly the art of such between parents, children and exes…in what way does each character in this story wield their ancient pahoas against one another?

17 “Ancient Weapons” ultimately pits daughter against father who eventually don a pair of boxing gloves to resolve their issues….father’s idea not the daughter’s. Talk about the effectiveness of this method.

18 “Location Scouts” is a prickly but tender slice of life for Letta needing and wanting protection and/or advice as her mother is slowly becoming more disabled and while pushing boundaries and borders with Brooke, a realtor and secret lover to her father. How do Letta’s manipulations manifest to have Brooke do what she does for Letta in the end?

19 “Location Scouts” compares Brooke’s feeling of people looking at her listed apartments as if “they’re not just looking for the perfect place to live, but for the perfect place to die. Maybe that’s when you know you’re truly home – when you find a location you see yourself dying in…” How does this relate to Letta, herself and her own mother?

20 “The After Party” has the mother away shopping on The Big Island but her character’s weight is still felt in the this story. We come to know her real reasons for being there through Bridget when their father is all dressed up just to go to bed. (Pg 229) How well do you think Sam justified his reaction to the situation?

21 “The After Party” is what happens when things have concluded and in this case it’s the loss of the gubernatorial election for Sam’s father (and three of Lloyd’s toes in a mowing accident), the demise of his parent’s self-absorbed marriage, and the coming together of him and his half sister over their common distaste for the way things are. All the characters are dysfunctional in this story but who do you think best survives this after party?

22 "The After Party" could be as much true to life as fiction because did you know that Hemming's real life father, Fred Hemmings, is a world-known surfer that The Honolulu Advertiser once dubbed "the father of professional surfing in Hawaii? He is also a State of Hawaii Republican who served from 2002 - 2010 as Senate Minority Leader.