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The Descendants: A Novel Paperback – April 8, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Hemmings's bittersweet debut novel, an expansion of her first published short story ("The Minor Wars," from House of Thieves and originally published in StoryQuarterly), stars besieged and wryly introspective attorney Matt King, the land-rich descendant of Hawaiian royalty and American missionaries and entrepreneurs. He wrestles with the decision of whether to keep his swath of valuable inherited land or sell it to a real estate developer. But even more critical, Matt also has to decide whether to pull the plug on his wife, Joanie, who has been in an irreversible coma for 23 days following a boat-racing accident. Then Matt finds out that Joanie was having an affair with real estate broker Brian Speer, impelling him to travel with his two daughters—precocious 10-year-old Scottie and fresh from rehab 17-year-old Alex—from Oahu to Kauai to confront Brian. Matt finds out the truth about Joanie and Brian, which influences his decision about what to do with his family's on-the-block land and complicates his plans for Joanie. Matt's journey with his girls forms the emotional core of this sharply observed, frequently hilarious and intermittently heartbreaking look at a well-meaning but confused father trying to hold together his unconventional family. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
From The New Yorker
The narrator of this audaciously comic début novel, the scion of the last Hawaiian landowning clan, has floated through his privileged life: marriage to a model given to "speedboats, motorcycles, alcoholism"; children getting into trouble (cocaine, bullying) at élite schools; membership at a century-old beach club that rejects those with "unfavorable pedigrees." But when a catamaran accident leaves his wife in a coma he must wake from his own "prolonged unconsciousness," reacquaint himself with his neglected daughters, and track down his wifes lover. Meanwhile, his cousins are urging him to sell the familys vast landholdings for developmentto relinquish, in his eyes, the final vestige of their native Hawaiian ancestry. Hemmings channels the voice of her befuddled middle-aged hero with virtuosity, as he teeters between acerbic and sentimental, scoffing at himself even as he grasps for redemption.
Copyright © 2007 Click here to subscribe to The New Yorker --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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As a mother I was stressed during this whole book and angry with Matt that he had not been more present in his daughter's upbringing and he allowed his wife free rein without question. As the story went on though he started to show superb judgement in how he handled so many of the new situations that showed up. The author did a fine job in the steadiness of Matt still making mistakes and where his aha moments happened, causing a change in his thoughts and actions.
Joanie is written in a very believable manner and one wonders if she ever thought of the damage she was doing to her children or if she was that clueless that she thought she was helping them. Her character is not likable for all the thoughtless damage she did to everyone around.
For me the interaction between Matt and Sid was the most impactful part of the story. Both of these two saved each other is ways that only they understood. What these two did for each other was amazing and heartfelt making me cry.
For this review I listened to it via audible and referenced the ebook version as well. I wonder if I had only read the book if I would have had a different outcome in my review. Though I haven't seen the movie I wonder how this book would come across on the screen so out of curiosity I will see it though.
I give this 3-1/2 STARS.
Then I read the book. It was better than the movie because the movie missed the key reason why Matt made the decision he did in hanging on to the ancestral land that he was shepherding. In reading, I formed a deep respect for author Hemming's use of language and understanding of the teenagers in the movie, Alex and her friend Sid. I also appreciated Hemming's skill as she seamlessly glided back and forth between advancing the story while filling in the backstory, avoiding any flashbacks.
Then I listened to the audio book, and was delighted to get an even deeper appreciation for the journey that Matt made, growing into his role as father to his children. It's a thoroughly engaging story, ultimately arriving at the moment when Matt forgives his unworthy dying wife. It seems morose when I write it down here, but this is a funny, and affecting story that rings true from beginning to end.