Monday, July 9, 2007

The Decendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings

This book got to me, almost in spite of myself. . . I started it two weeks ago and had a very hard time with the first 100 pages (or so). My mind wandered, I feel asleep, I found something else to do. And then. . .

For some inexplicable reason, the book took hold of me and I was hooked. When I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about it. I guess that is the sign that it is a good book.

This is a book about family, death, forgiveness and real estate. Pretty much the whole gamut of life.

Matt King, the narrator of this book, has led a privileged life sheltered by money and heritage. And then, suddenly, a tragic boating accident shatters his illusions and forces him to look at his legacies: from his royal Hawaiian ancestors to his incredibly screwed up kids.

Matt’s rather dry, understated narration is alternatively hilarious and heart breaking as he wanders through his past and bumbles through his present. The accident wakes him up to his roles in his family – deficient father, blind spouse, reluctant heir.

I suppose that technically this book is a “downer” -- after all we are dealing with death, greed, adultery and messed up kids. Curiously, it was not. And some of the situations, especially with his daughter's "friend" are hilarious. In the end this book is more a celebration of life than anything else.

The publisher blurb says:

Narrated in a bold, fearless, hilarious voice and set against the lush, panoramic backdrop of Hawaii, The Descendants is a stunning debut novel about an unconventional family forced to come together and re-create its own legacy.

Matthew King was once considered one of the most fortunate men in Hawaii. His missionary ancestors were financially and culturally progressive-one even married a Hawaiian princess, making Matt a royal descendant and one of the state's largest landowners.

Now his luck has changed. His two daughters are out of control: Ten-year-old Scottie is a smart-ass with a desperate need for attention, and seventeen-year-old Alex, a former model, is a recovering drug addict. Matt's charismatic, thrill-seeking, high-maintenance wife, Joanie, lies in a coma after a boat-racing accident and will soon be taken off life support. The Kings can hardly picture life without her, but as they come to terms with this tragedy, their sadness is mixed with a sense of freedom that shames them-and spurs them into surprising actions.

Before honoring Joanie's living will, Matt must gather her friends and family to say their final goodbyes, a difficult situation made worse by the sudden discovery that there is one person who hasn't been told: the man with whom Joanie had been having an affair, quite possibly the one man she ever truly loved. Forced to examine what he owes not only to the living but to the dead, Matt takes to the road with his daughters to find his wife's lover, a memorable journey that leads to both painful revelations and unforeseen humor and growth.


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