by Russell Cahill


West Maui Book Club "Kolea" Discussion Questions

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1) In the opening paragraph (loc 99), Cahill travels back through time and struggle to help us understand that “these Hawaiian Islands, farther from a major land mass than any on Earth, were discovered by a fisherman.” He credits that finding to Hawai’i Loa. Some people believe Hawai’i Loa is a legend; others believe he is a fact. What have you learned or heard about this ancient hero that you can share?

2) Cahill’s main character Kolea personifies the Pacific golden plover (loc 1452) that “from its wintering grounds begins each spring when the birds, having fattened themselves over the winter, set out to fly far, far away, off to lands unknown – what we now know as western Alaska and Siberia. They joined birds traveling from as far away as lands now known as New Zealand and Australia.” In what ways did Kolea’s journey compare?

3) We are introduced to the North Pacific Gyre (loc 1494). What did you learn about this “convergence zone.” Equally, given that the Hawaiian Islands rest within the path of Fukushima’s earthquake and massive property destruction, what do you think this archipelago can expect the North Pacific Gyre to deliver its way? Goggle the North Pacific Gyre or read in detail about the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch" as shown below on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's web site.


4) Cahill bases his story in many a Hawaiian tradition and there are numerous mentioned in this story. For instance, women eating separate from the men (loc 183), never touching the King or his shadow (loc 2009), showing respect by avoiding eye contact (loc 150), and only priests and dancers knowing the words pertaining to the chants they recited (loc 183). Can you name others that surprised or made an impression on you that perhaps you did not already know?

5) The character, Mahi, commissions a war heiau to be built at Honokohau (loc 2021). As that Honokohau is in the “backyard” of where the West Maui Book Club meets, is it possible that such a heiau once existed? Goggle research has no record. Discuss the possibility and why it could have been so important.

6) Have you ever hiked into or around Haleakala? Can you share your experience? Cahill mentions with great clarity Kaupo Gap. I’ve hiked to Kapalaoa Cabin from the point of entrance at Halemau’u Trailhead. It happened to be a gorgeous day upon the trail that was well maintained. Our only difficulty came from the elevation change when one of our gals became anoxic. Otherwise, it was a fabulous day of photography, friendship and adventure. If you ever decide to follow this route, I highly recommend you pack a hearty lunch to eat while visiting the cabin. Bring also a good quantity of water.

7) Discuss the importance of Hawaiians reciting their ancestry as Kolea did while on Molokai when addressing Mahi’s warriors that had arrived from Maui and were ready to attack? (loc 2731)

8) With “Kolea” richly steeped in Hawaiian history and traditions, how has your understanding of its early people been enhanced or changed? What did you learn that was new?

9) There are many battles in the story of “Kolea”. Can you compare any of the fictional battles -- like those in Hana (loc 172), Kaupo (loc 499), and Molokai (loc 2016) -- to actual battles fought on similar grounds? What about the final battle between Mahi and Kolea in Ch. 34?

Please refer to "Area Authors" within the "BOOK IT!" section on our site's home page to read a full article on Russell Cahill that includes how to purchase your copy of "Kolea".

West Maui Book Club discussion questions compiled by:
Elaine Gallant
West Maui Book Club
Nov, 2015