Wednesday, 12 December 2012

The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings **possible spoilers**

This book follows a family having to cope with a tragedy in their lives. The husband, Matt King, is forced into a position where he has to take care of two daughters he barely knows whilst also dealing with the fact that his thrill seeking wife is lying in a coma with little chance of recovery. Add on to this the fact that he has cousins all grasping for various amounts of money from his large family business that he doesn't care for and you just know that it's going to be a rather interesting journey.

The story starts with the wife, Joanie, already in the coma and Matt being confronted with the fact that he is a poor father when it comes to dealing with the every day things necessary when caring for a child. He had obviously been a stay-away dad due to work and business and it is there as an under-current throughout the book. Things are made worse when he is informed by the doctor that Joanie will never wake up and had made a living will where she did not want to be kept alive by machines.

Right from the beginning you can sense that these are not the only problems this family will face, and you'd think they would be enough for anyone, and there are revelations and realisations that jump up and slap these people in the face (one or two punches too) throughout the book. This is a real tragicomedy, at times you find yourself laughing at some dry humour and then stop yourself as you remember the feelings behind the comment.

Matt King is a father who doesn't have a clue and a husband who hid in obliviousness. His business kept him away from his family to the point where he doesn't recognise who his daughters have grown into, one a precocious, spoilt bully and the other a recovering drug addict who'd been sent away to boarding school. Most of the humour, tinged with guilt or sadness, is based around his attempts to make up for his time away, trying to grab hold of little children he thought he knew but instead getting the older versions who don't even think they need him. The children are definitely the more intriguing of the characters.

Whilst there is a main plot twist that is focused on I found myself more interested just reading the family dynamics as they change and evolve, not a normal family but definitely better than they were before the tragedy.

This is a lovely book, if set around tragic circumstances, about different family members with different coping mechanisms and all with their own secrets who go off on a slightly different sort of 'family holiday'. I feel that the character of Matt King could have been expanded upon in that it was all too perfect - his only flaw was his total obliviousness to what was happening and even that's turned to his advantage at times.

I would recommend this for a holiday read, or for a book on a flight. It's not too long but will keep you reading.

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