Sharks in the Time of Saviors

by Kawai Strong Washburn

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Sharks in the Time of Saviors Characters

The main characters in Sharks in the Time of Saviors are Malia, Augie, Nainoa, Dean, and Kaui.

  • Malia is the Flores family’s mother. Her focus on Nainoa leads her other children to feel overlooked.
  • Augie is the family’s father, who suffers a breakdown after Nainoa’s death.
  • Nainoa is Malia and Augie’s eldest son, who is granted a supernatural power to heal and becomes an EMT.
  • Dean, the youngest Flores son, is a basketball prodigy who struggles academically and works as a delivery driver.
  • Kaui is the youngest Flores child. Academically gifted, she ultimately applies her study of engineering to farming.


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Last Updated on February 25, 2021, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 761

Malia Flores

Malia is the mother of the Flores family. Her first experience with Hawai'an spirituality comes on the night she and her husband conceive Nainoa; she is also the person who dives into the sea to save her son from being attacked by sharks when he is very small. She witnesses firsthand how the sharks seem to respect him as if he has a special power and consequently is very invested in Noa's gifts, which can sometimes make her other children feel neglected. Only after Noa dies can she really recognize the spirituality in her other children and her capacity to connect deeply with them.

Augie Flores

Augie is Malia's husband, a jocular and friendly man who is a hard worker but always short of money. He at first seems less invested in Noa's spirituality than Malia is. However, after Noa dies, Augie is sent into a state of utter despair, locked inside his own head. Eventually he recognizes that much of Noa's spiritual gift has entered him. This makes him recognize not only that Noa is still present, but also that it must have been very difficult for Noa to harbor this power inside him all those years.

Nainoa Flores

Nainoa is the most remarkable member of the Flores family, but as readers we hear far less from him than from his mother and siblings. When Noa is a small child, he is saved by sharks, and this event has deep repercussions for the rest of his life. By the time he is thirteen, he realizes he has the power to heal others, and he is effortlessly good at everything he tries. However, in many ways Noa resents his gift; it puts a rift between him and his brother, Dean, and when he fails in his job as a paramedic to save a woman and her child due to a moment's hubris, he breaks down. Eventually, he recognizes a need to connect to his spirituality at home on the Big Island, which leads to his death.

Dean Flores

Dean is Noa's older brother. As a child, he resents Noa because so much attention is paid to him by their parents. While the brothers were once very close, Dean begins to bully Noa and feels particularly diminished because he himself is not as academically successful as his siblings. He eventually finds his way into basketball, where he excels and makes his parents proud, but soon he loses his confidence, his grades slip, and he drops out of college. Dean is convinced that he is good at “being a bad guy”; he has been a drug dealer and eventually is imprisoned. However, at heart he is a good and loyal son to his parents and an incredibly protective brother to Kaui. He has also always been uncomfortable about his feeling that some part of Noa's gift also exists inside him.

Kaui Flores

The only Flores daughter, Kaui loves her brothers but wishes her parents would pay attention to her. She is an incredibly hard worker at school, and Malia is proud when Kaui makes her way to San Diego to study engineering. However, Kaui struggles more than she lets her parents see, and she grows further away from them as she begins to embark on risky endeavors such as climbing. While in San Diego, she also struggles with her sexuality. It is not until after Noa's death that she is able to reconcile with her mother and also with her own spirituality through her farm work back at home.


Van is Kaui's friend in San Diego. The pair have...

(This entire section contains 761 words.)

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a confused relationship that both of them find difficult to deal with. Van is insistent that she is not a lesbian, but she and Kaui have several romantic entanglements. Eventually their relationship ends badly, and this is part of the reason Kaui feels she must flee back home.


Khadeja is Noa's girlfriend in Portland. She is very supportive of him and recognizes that there is something special inside him, but Noa will not reveal the extent of it to her or let her support him when he begins to struggle. After his death, she keeps in touch with Noa’s mother and is kind to his brother, Dean.


Hoku is the owner of a farm in Hawai'i. He is able to convince Kaui to come and work for him after her return to the island, and she feels rejuvenated by his farm even as she manages to improve its processes and help restore the overall equilibrium of the island.