A break from the winter doldrums

A review of The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings

Nothing like a good novel set in Hawaii to take me out of my mid-December-there's-no-sun-to-be found misery. I just let the descriptions of the sunsets on the beach and the tropical mountains wash over me and sweep me out of this mess.

The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings is just what I needed to pick me up. The narrator, Matt King, is the descendant of Hawaiian royalty and missionaries, and is the majority owner of ancestral property. This leaves him with the responsibility of deciding for the family what's to be done with the real estate that has put them in debt. Developers are salivating. Matt has to choose one. But he's distracted. His wife, Joanie, who he loves, is in an irreversible coma - the result of a boating accident.  So on top of the real estate decision, he has to decide whether to pull the plug on his wife.

He has 2 daughters. Alex, 16ish, is away at a boarding school where she was sent to deal with her cocaine problem. She fought bitterly with her mother right before the accident. Scottie, 10, is precocious and is beginning to hang around with the wrong people. And Matt, a busy lawyer, really doesn't know his daughters. But he wants to do the right thing for his family. He goes and fetches Alex. He decides to follow Joanie's will and to stop supportive care. He makes the rounds to all his family and friends to tell them of his decision. He helps his girls face the end of their mother's life. When Alex reveals that Joanie has a lover he even searches for him so the lover can say goodbye to her. 

Matt is one of the most appealing male characters I've gotten to know in a while. Hemmings looks likes she's about 12, so it's amazing that she could capture the voice of a middle-aged married man so well (can't wait to see what George Clooney does with the role). His relationships with his daughters, while distant at first, grow in interesting ways. I really enjoyed this book. It came to me just at the right time too - and helped me forget the cold and grey, even if just for a few hours.


I read this last winter break and I completely agree with the above review. It was my favorite book I read last year. I'm really excited that a movie has been made so I can see the fascinating and funny family relationships on the big screen.