Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings

Fortunes have changed for the King family, descendants of Hawaiian royalty and one of the state’s largest landowners. Matthew King’s daughters – Scottie, a feisty ten-year-old, and Alex, a seventeen-year-old recovering drug addict – are out of control, and their charismatic, thrill-seeking mother, Joan, lies in a coma after a boat-racing accident. She will soon be taken off life support. As Matt gathers his wife’s friends and family to say their final goodbyes, a difficult situation is made worse by the sudden discovery that there’s one person who hasn’t been told: the man with whom Joanie had been having an affair. Forced to examine what they owe not only to the living but to the dead, Matt, Scottie, and Alex take to the road to find Joanie’s lover, on a memorable journey that leads to unforeseen humor, growth, and profound revelations.

I wasn’t aware that the movie was based off of a book, so I was kind of surprised when I stumbled across this book one day in Barnes and Noble. I hadn’t seen the movie yet, so I figured why not read the book first. (A little FYI: I hate reading a book after I’ve already seen the movie it’s based on). This is a beautifully written book that ultimately is about a man connecting with his children, and realizing what it takes to really be a father. The relationship Matt has with his daughters at the beginning of the book was almost cold, and didn’t exactly make me want to like this guy. Through his narration, you realize that his life revolves around his work, and has never had to assume the father figure that he has to now. You see his progress throughout the book to try and make his daughters respect him as an authority figure and really assume the father role, which is what warmed me up to this character. He really is trying, but he’s lost.

Scottie was a bit more “out there” than I imagined, but nonetheless, she provided most of the comedic moments throughout the book which I appreciated. Kaui Hart Hemmings tells a story about losing a loved one, and yet manages to do it in such a way that you’re not consistently thinking about the heartbreak of this situation. You focus on the relationship that Matt is building with his daughters and it shines a positive light on a bad situation.

The first 20 or so pages were a little on the slow side, but after that it picked up. It’s a pretty quick read, and is overall a good book. 

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