book review

The Descendants: A Novel


It’s summer and I wanted a fun summer read to take on vacation while I visited my son in Santa Cruz, CA.  The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings turned out to be enjoyable and absorbing. It was the perfect read for layovers and other quiet moments.

Matt King is a descendant of a stern American missionary and an independent Hawaiian princess. He is middle-aged with a wife and two teen daughters. That’s just the surface:  Matt’s wife Joanie is in a coma from a boating accident. He and his daughter Scottie spend endless days visiting her until the doctors decide they can do nothing further and must put Joanie’s living will into action. As Matt struggles to say good-bye to his wife and manage his recalcitrant children, he must also make a decision regarding the family inheritance of thousands of acres of which he is a primary heir. When he discovers Joanie has been having an affair with someone directly related to the sale of the land, all bets are off. Matt becomes hell-bent on discovering his wife’s lover. As a self-absorbed attorney Matt has spent so much time immersed in his work he has paid no attention to the fact that his family has literally been falling apart around him.

Matt brings Alex home from boarding school where she had been relegated after acting out with boys and cocaine, hoping his elder daughter can ‘fix’ her younger sibling.  Young but precocious Scottie is reacting badly to her mother’s coma by deliberately hurting herself, wearing Alex’s sexy lingerie,  and cyber stalking her classmates.   Alex refuses to do a thing to help with Scottie, or even visit her mother in the hospital, unless her friend Sid comes along for the ride.  Sid, who wrestles with his own recent personal tragedy, inserts some comedy into this dramatic situation with his slacker manner and quick mind.  Though a teenager, Sid doesn’t respect adult boundaries and often infuriates Matt.

The beauty of Hawaii is ever-present in this tale of a father struggling to come out of his fog and rebuild his family without his wife amidst the pain of her betrayal.

5 daisies




Kaui Hart Hemmings




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