Tag Archives: Kaui Hart Hemmings

PACIFIC WRITERS YOU SHOULD KNOW (PART 4)

Kaui Hart Hemmings

Kaui Hart Hemmings is an American author best known for her highly-acclaimed novel ‘The Descendants’, which has been made into a movie starring George Clooney.

Born and raised in Hawaii, she often writes about the Aloha State as seen by the locals. And although her books aren’t always set in the islands (her second novel, for instance, is set in a Colorado ski resort), the local vibe can be felt throughout the pages.

Kiana Davenport

Kiana Davenport is without doubt one of the best-known Hawaiian authors. Of part-Hawaiian ancestry, she likes exploring Hawaiian and Polynesian cultures in her books.

Her famous ‘Shark Dialogues’ – a beautiful and fascinating family saga, in which Hawaii is not just a setting but one of the characters – is merely one example of how exceptionally talented Kiana Davenport is. Her books are more than worthy of your time and attention.

Matthew Kaopio

Matthew Kaopio was not only an extremely talented writer but also an unbelievably gifted painter. He began his artistic adventure after a diving accident had left him paralyzed from the shoulders down.

The books he wrote before his death in December, 2018 transport readers to Hawaii – paradise not but nonetheless a very special, even magical place. The local culture, practices, and traditions are neatly woven into each and every story, so if you’re craving a bit of Aloha Spirit, this is the author you must read.

Marita Davies

Marita Davies is an Australian-Kiribati writer, whose website – The Little Island That Could – is a valuable source of information on Kiribati and the Pacific. But she doesn’t confine herself to only running a blog. Her publications have been featured in various magazines, and her book – ‘Teaote and the Wall’ – is one of the most wonderful children’s stories you’ll be able to find.

Marita is passionate about traditional oral storytelling of Pacific Islanders, which she tries to recreate in written form. That’s definitely one of the reasons why her works are so incredibly compelling to read.

L. Filloon

L. Filloon, an American Samoan writer, is probably best known for her fantasy book series, The Velesi Trilogy. It can be said that she specializes in this particular genre, so those who enjoy folk tales, mythology, and a bit of science fiction will absolutely love her novels.

L. Filloon has a wonderful way with words, which makes her books truly magical. The stories quickly capture the reader’s imagination, and once you start reading them, you simply cannot stop.

‘THE DESCENDANTS’ BY KAUI HART HEMMINGS

‘The Descendants’ is Kaui Hart Hemmings’s debut novel. Set in Hawaii, it tells the tragic story of the King family.

THE DESCENDANTS

Summary

Matthew King’s life couldn’t be more idyllic: he lives in paradise, has a wonderful family, is a descendant of Hawaiian royalty and one of the state’s largest landowners. A true picture-perfect postcard. Only it isn’t.

The only paradise Matt knows is the paradise of the Queen’s Hospital; his wonderful family consists of a wife in a coma and two out-of-control, attention-seeking daughters; and the land he co-owns will soon get sold to property developers.

This difficult situation is made worse by Matt’s sudden discovery that his loving wife was having an extramarital affair. Deciding to find Joanie’s lover, Matt takes his daughters on a journey none of them will ever forget.

Review

When your debut novel can easily be called a masterpiece, you must be an extraordinarily talented person. This title proves it and leaves no one in doubt that Kaui Hart Hemmings is a writer whose books are worth anyone’s time and attention.

With such a grim subject matter – ideal for pompous melodrama – it would be all too easy to fall into tired clichés or to succumb to an overly solemn tone, leaving readers on the verge of tears every two pages or so. But Kaui Hart Hemmings managed to avoid sentimentality, and instead of making readers cry, she often makes them laugh. Yes, laugh. But how can you laugh when someone is dying? Well, sometimes the most serious points are best made through wit and humour. Sure, you may say the novel is irreverent. I say it simply oozes plausibility.

The fact that the story is so believable is also largely down to the well-crafted main characters. Matt may be a successful lawyer, but he is less than successful as a father. Left in sole charge of his daughters, he needs to quickly learn how to be a parent. His struggles are real, because – contrary to what you usually hear and see – parenting doesn’t always come naturally. Matt doesn’t even pretend to know what to do. He seems just as lost as the two teenagers he has under his care.

And, this needs to be said, 10-year-old Scottie and her older sister Alex are not exactly the parents’ little angel type of kids. They are rebellious, troublesome, unruly, and defiant. But they are also in great need of love and attention. Full of insecurities, they want to feel safe and understood; they want to feel valued.

The portrayal of both Scottie and Alex is exceptional. Kaui Hart Hemmings wonderfully brought out the girls’ personalities. From their behaviours to the idiosyncratic ways of talking, she really captured their characters as well as the change they underwent.

Now, despite ‘The Descendants’ being mainly the story of the King family, the author didn’t fail to incorporate Hawaii into the plot. The Aloha State is not only a setting; it’s a character in its own right. Forget Waikiki and pretty dancers in grass skirts. Welcome paradise that isn’t. Hawaii from Hemmings’s book is like any other place in the world; well, maybe with a little more blue sky and gently swaying palm trees. Crime, social issues, substance abuse… It’s all there. Add to this cultural matters, and you have a book in which Hawaii finally gets to be itself.

It is impossible not to marvel at this novel. It’s an engaging piece of literature, with flowing prose, credible characters, and a candid setting. The multi-layered storyline, packed with twists and turns, well-judged humour, and a plethora of emotions, won’t let you stop reading until you reach the final sentence. I could not recommend it more!