Hemmings, Kaui Hart

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Hemmings, Kaui Hart

PERSONAL:

Born in HI; married Andy Lautenbach (an attorney); children: Eleanor. Education: Colorado College, B.A.; Sarah Lawrence College, M.F.A.; attended Stanford University.

ADDRESSES:

Home—San Francisco, CA. Office—Writer's Grotto, 490 2nd St., 2nd Fl., San Francisco, CA 94107. Agent—c/o Kim Witherspoon, InkWell Management, 521 5th Ave., 26th Fl., New York, NY 10175. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Writer, educator, and editor.

MEMBER:

Writer's Grotto.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Wallace Stegner fellow, Stanford University.

WRITINGS:

House of Thieves (short stories), Penguin Press (New York, NY), 2005.

The Descendants (novel), Random House (New York, NY), 2007.

Contributor to anthologies, including Falling Backwards: Stories of Fathers and Daughters, Best American New Voices, and The Best American Nonrequired Reading. Contributor to periodicals, including StoryQuarterly, Zoetrope, Sun, and the Los Angeles Times.

SIDELIGHTS:

Kaui Hart Hemmings is the author of numerous short stories, nine of which have been collected in her first book, House of Thieves. Set in the author's native Hawaii, the stories chronicle the relationships between a number of upper-class Hawaiians. A variety of family relationships is portrayed, from a father's dealings with his daughter while his wife lies in a coma, to a single mother's reactions to finding pornography in her son's room. The tales also illustrate how the lives of the privileged can negatively affect their surroundings. In a review for the Library Journal, Eleanor J. Bader remarked that "this emotionally brave anthology is hard-hitting, perceptive, beautifully crafted, and wonderfully entertaining." A contributor to Publishers Weekly observed that "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." A Kirkus Reviews critic concluded of House of Thieves that "the undertow of these dark and seductive tales is irresistible."

Hemmings's debut novel, The Descendants, is an expansion of "The Minor Wars," a story that appeared in House of Thieves. Protagonist Matthew King is a descendant of Hawaiian royalty. An attorney, he is also in charge of administering the wealthy family's large land holdings, deflecting as best he can pressure to sell the land for business and retail development. Resolute and self-sufficient, Matt struggles to make a living from his legal career rather than relying on his substantial inheritance, leaving him little time to tend to his marriage and children. In the midst of deciding what to do with the real estate holdings, he learns that his adventurous, live-for-the-moment wife Joanie, a beautiful fashion model, has been rendered comatose in a boating accident. Matt finds himself unsure of how to connect with his two out-of-control daughters, ten-year-old Scottie and self-absorbed, substance-abusing Alex, who were sent to boarding school by their mother in an attempt to rein in their atrocious behavior. When Matt receives word that Joanie is not expected to recover, he realizes he must abide by the terms of her living will and discontinue her life support, allowing her to die. Matt also learns that his wife was having an affair with real estate developer Brian Speer, a revelation that rocks his family life and has potential repercussions in his family's real estate deals. Determined to reconnect with his daughters and help them survive the tragedy, Matt sets out with his children to locate Speer and find the answers to many bedeviling questions.

Hemmings "channels the voice of her befuddled middle-aged hero with virtuosity," observed a New Yorker reviewer. A Publishers Weekly critic hailed The Descen-dants as a "sharply observed, frequently hilarious, and intermittently heartbreaking look at a well-meaning but confused father" trying to keep his family from falling apart. "It won't take any reader long to discover that Hemmings is a brilliant writer, capable of a seemingly non-stop series of wise and witty observations of the awful truth," noted Rick Kleffel on the Agony Column Book Reviews and Commentary Web site. Booklist reviewer Carol Haggas concluded that the author's "virtuoso performance offers a piquantly tender and winsomely comic portrait of a singular family's revealing response to tragedy."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, April 15, 2007, Carol Haggas, review of The Descendants, p. 21.

Bookseller, October 20, 2006, "Debut Writer from Hawaii," profile of Kaui Hart Hemmings, p. 17.

Entertainment Weekly, May 25, 2007, Rebecca Ascher-Walsh, review of The Descendants, p. 87.

Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 2005, review of House of Thieves, p. 306; April 15, 2007, review of The Descendants.

Library Journal, June 15, 2005, Eleanor J. Bader, review of House of Thieves, p. 63; May 15, 2007, Robin Nesbitt, review of The Descendants, p. 80.

New Yorker, June 25, 2007, review of The Descendants, p. 93.

Publishers Weekly, March 14, 2005, review of House of Thieves, p. 42; March 5, 2007, review of The Descendants, p. 37.

Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), June 2, 2007, Kristin Kloberdanz, review of The Descendants, p. 7.

ONLINE

Agony Column Book Reviews and Commentary Web site,http://trashotron.com/agony/ (January 1, 2008), Rick Kleffel, review of The Descendants.

Kaui Hart Hemmings Home Page,http://www.kauiharthemmings.com (January 1, 2008).

KQED.org,http://www.kqed.org/ (January 19, 2007), Suzanne Kleid, review of The Descendants.