Daughters of Fire Reading Guide for Your Book Club

Author Tom Peek


Mahalo for reading my novel. I hope your group enjoyed it!

Aloha,
Tom

Book Club Feedback

I'd love to hear your thoughts on the book after you've discussed it. Please feel free to take a short survey at SurveyMonkey to provide feedback.

The Story

  1. The Author’s Note says that “Most stories of the Hawaiian Islands are mythic, and this novel is no exception. Its characters and events are pure fiction—but not untrue.” Why do you think the author precedes his story with this comment?
  2. How many distinct plot lines did you notice in the story? Which ones were your favorites, and why?
  3. What do you think were the main themes of the novel?
  4. Why did the author begin this contemporary story with an historical prologue about the 1801 Hualalai eruption and King Kamehameha’s sacrifice to Pele?
  5. Why do you think the author included a number of references to British Captain James Cook and King Kamehameha in this otherwise contemporary story?
  6. For you, what were the most memorable scenes of the novel? Why? Which scenes evoked the most emotion in you?
  7. Why do you think Maile insisted on returning to the cave, despite Aunty Keala’s warning? Have you ever made a similar mistake?
  8. Discuss the role of dreams in the novel.
  9. Some readers have suggested that Daughters of Fire is written in a kind of “old-fashioned” way, more like novels published years ago. Do you agree, and if so, why? In what ways was the novel not old-fashioned?
  10. What aspect of the novel’s plot surprised you most?

The Characters

  1. Who were the main characters of the novel, the ones most important to the story?
  2. Who were your favorite characters and why? Which characters didn’t you like? Why not?
  3. Were there any physical places in the novel that you would consider to also be characters?
  4. How much did you know about Hawaiʻi’s volcano goddess Pele before reading the novel? Was your view of this legendary deity altered in any way as you read the story?
  5. The novel’s Native Hawaiian characters—Maile, Wailani, Aunty Keala, Maliʻo, Aka,Uncle Sonny, Haku Kane, Governor Kamaliʻi, ʻIolani Carvalho, Honu Man, and the young Kiholo fisherman—each coped with the oppression of colonialism in a different way. Discuss each character’s approach with your group.

Meaning

  1. What were the novel’s most compelling ideas for you personally?
  2. The novel is set in a number of places that Native Hawaiians consider sacred. Have you ever experienced a place—in Hawaiʻi or anywhere else—that felt sacred to you? What made it feel that way?
  3. Throughout the story, Maile struggled to get back in touch with her naʻau, that intuitive knowing that people from many traditional cultures rely on. How often do you try to use your naʻau instead of just logic? In what kinds of situations? How do you think you can improve that personal ability? Do you think it’s valuable to do so?
  4. Many of the characters experience inner and external conflicts in the novel. Which conflicts could you relate to personally?
  5. Discuss the various concepts of sovereignty illuminated by the story. Which one has the most meaning for you?
  6. What were your images of Hawaiʻi before reading Daughters of Fire? Did they change as you read the novel? How so?
  7. Did the novel make you want to visit Hawaiʻi more or less? Please elaborate your reactions.

Relevance

  1. Do you think the traditional Hawaiian perspectives presented in the novel are in any way relevant in the modern world?
  2. How do you think the author’s personal life (as described in his bio at the end of the book) influenced the story he created in the novel? What kind of story would your life influence were you to write it?

Want to learn more about Hawai'i?

Map of Hawaii
Check out Tom's suggested reading list in the back of the book.
Read more about Hawai'i at these websites.

Click on the image to see a larger map of the Big Island of Hawai'i.

Tom's latest book recommendation:

The Hummingbird's Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea (Back Bay Books, 2005)

If you enjoyed the magical realism and authentic cultural drama of Daughters of Fire, then you’ll definitely want to read Luis Alberto Urrea’s historical novel The Hummingbird’s Daughter. Urrea spent twenty years researching and writing this fascinating and beautifully written story about a half Mexican, half Yaqui medicine woman who was a mythic figure in his own family and a celebrated person in nineteenth century northern Mexico (later part of the US). So compelling were the novel’s characters—and so fine Urrea’s writing—that after the first fifty pages, I couldn’t put it down. Night after night I stayed up into the wee hours, immersing myself in this magical and greatly conflicted time.