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The Descendants | [Kaui Hart Hemmings]

The Descendants

Matthew King was once considered one of the most fortunate men in Hawaii. His missionary ancestors who came to the islands were financially and culturally progressive - one even married a Hawaiian princess, making Matt a royal descendant and one of the state’s largest landowners. But now his luck has changed. His two daughters are out of control - 10-year-old Scottie has a smart-ass attitude and a desperate need for attention and 17-year-old Alex is a recovering drug addict.
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Publisher's Summary

Now a major motion picture starring George Clooney!

Matthew King was once considered one of the most fortunate men in Hawaii. His missionary ancestors who came to the islands were financially and culturally progressive - one even married a Hawaiian princess, making Matt a royal descendant and one of the state’s largest landowners. But now his luck has changed. His two daughters are out of control - 10-year-old Scottie has a smart-ass attitude and a desperate need for attention and 17-year-old Alex, a former model, is a recovering drug addict. His thrill-seeking and high-maintenance wife, Joanie, lies in a coma after a boat racing accident, and will soon be taken off life support.

The King family can hardly picture life without their charismatic mother, 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.

©2007 Kaui Hart Hemmings. All rights reserved. (P)2010 BBC America Audiobooks

What the Critics Say

"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." (Publishers Weekly)

"[An] audaciously comic début novel.... 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." (The New Yorker)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

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  •  
    Bev Alton, IL, USA 03-04-13
    Bev Alton, IL, USA 03-04-13 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Really Amazing"
    What did you love best about The Descendants?

    This is one strong and amazing story. A father trying to reconnect with his children and come to terms with losing his spouse (who, he finds out, was leaving him all along). Beautifully written and deeply touching. Highly recommend.


    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Drew (@drewsant) Watertown, MA, United States 02-14-13
    Drew (@drewsant) Watertown, MA, United States 02-14-13 Member Since 2012

    Post apocalyptic listener with some thrillers mixed in. Follow me on twitter at @drewsant

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    "A story you can connect with"

    I’m not sure what to make of this book. I found myself enjoying it despite the fact that I hate pretty much every character in it! A couple of spoiled brats, and absent father, and a stoned boyfriend don’t make for a likable bunch but the story is so well written and engaging I couldn’t help liking it and wanting to read on. The plight they find themselves in is heartbreaking but the journey they take really got me thinking more than a book has in a while.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    KP Oakland, CA 11-29-12
    KP Oakland, CA 11-29-12 Member Since 2012

    There is no Frigate like a Book To take us Lands away Nor any Coursers like a Page Of prancing Poetry – Emily Dickinson

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    "Well-written and funny!"

    I'd already seen the movie version when I read this book. I am trying to think of some ways that the book is different. It's hard to come up with any. SO, I Googled it! Here's one idea I came up with (see below), but I don't know if I agree with the part about how the movie villainizes Matt's wife. I thought she seemed pretty villainous in the book! I can't really remember how she was different in the movie, frankly. My friend who is teaching this book says that in the movie Julie, the wife, does NOT try to push that one developer as the buyer of the family land that is about to be sold off. I thought she DID do the same in the book and the movie on that point. I guess I need to review the movie!

    "The loss of internal narrative always makes the transition from book to movie difficult, and this is no exception. Unlike the novel, the movie virtually villainizes Matt’s wife and paints a far more negative picture of his relationship with her. The novel allows for a much more nuanced version of this story, and this is Hemmings’s most impressive literary feat: she brings to life a character that is comatose for the entire novel. Payne chooses not to do this, and I think this is the major flaw of the film; it makes Matt’s grief a little less complex (if she was such a witch and he was so unhappy, why such a tearful goodbye?), though it makes Alexandra’s anger much more accessible.".... onthedanforth.ca

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cheryl 09-24-12
    Cheryl 09-24-12
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    "Great narration!!!"

    I saw the movie a while back , but enjoyed the book more. ( although who doesn't like looking at George Clooney). I thought the narrator sounded like George so it was a very enjoyable experience. Good story but darker than we expected when we saw the movie, but knowing the story , it was fun to listen to.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kathi 02-18-14
    Kathi 02-18-14 Member Since 2010

    Love books! Classics and lighter fiction, mysteries (not too violent please :-). And selective non-fiction--whatever takes my fancy.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Excellant narration"

    I'll have to say that while I liked this book, it was a bit different from what I had expected. I am the one person who lives in a cave and had neither seen the movie, nor knew anything about it before listening to this. So my opinion is based not on seeing the movie first, but on listening to the very sensitively performed narration of Jonathon Davis (perhaps the best feature of this book).

    Although there are some lighter moments, I will almost have to say that I felt that the wife's laying dying was not the only tragedy. Possibly the other one was a father having to ask his two daughters' nanny to tell him what sorts do things they liked, and finding out things about them through taking on the parenting role when they are 10 and 17.

    What he finds are teens desperately in need of his parenting and attention, but is it already too late? I did not find Matt King to be likable in the beginning, though he grew on me through the book. (But that is good writing.)

    The book gets its title, "The Descendants", because of his ancestors (including a Hawaiian princess) who owned some now-valuable land in Hawaii that he is trying to decide whether to sell. It could equally have been called "The Disengaged," based on how so much of the story is about his trying to step into the role of being a parent in the wife's place. To me, that was almost more of a sadness than the wife being in a coma, dying.

    This is a good book, in that it totally draws the listener into these lives and conveys this family and their revelations all done through the eyes of the father, who is trying to handle more personal challenges than he has apparently been used to. Even through the first person narrative, he manages to convey his and his daughters' stories and confused lives very well.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Judy hilo, HI, United States 12-06-11
    Judy hilo, HI, United States 12-06-11 Member Since 2010
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    "entertaining BUT..."
    What did you love best about The Descendants?

    great story about love.


    What do you think the narrator could have done better?

    learn to pronounce hawaiian words correctly, as a kamaaina would.


    Any additional comments?

    they couldn't even pronounce the author's name correctly.

    9 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Janice Smith Hawaii 02-28-15
    Janice Smith Hawaii 02-28-15 Member Since 2010
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    "Narrator sounds like George Clooney!"

    I really enjoyed this book. All of the characters helped drive the story. It has many layers, losing a parent, realizing they aren't perfect, mixed feelings with the grief process. It is much better than the movie. In the book the reader understands and sympathizes with each characters behavior

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mon San Francisco, Ca 12-01-14
    Mon San Francisco, Ca 12-01-14 Member Since 2010

    12 step program please. I am addicted to Audible! I love trashy sexy books, award winning novels and everything between. Bring it!

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    "Unexpected! Loved this book."
    Where does The Descendants rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    It's at the top of the list. I was not expecting to love this book; the writing is simple and powerful, the characters realistic, and the Hawaiian setting perfect to hold a story about loss, grief and reclaiming the past.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    I loved Matthew king's character. He's a bit of a sleeper and slowly wakes to some hard truths and realities. I particularly liked that his character is both gentle and strong.


    What about Jonathan Davis’s performance did you like?

    He has a nice smooth voice. It fit with my imagine of George Clooney as Matthew king.


    Any additional comments?

    I purchased this audio sometime ago after seeing and enjoying the movie, and just never got around to listening to it. The book is even better and I enjoyed every moment of it. This book kinda wowed me and am now recommending it to all my friends.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    L. Chao 10-23-14
    L. Chao 10-23-14
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    "Off beat story about family"
    What did you love best about The Descendants?

    It was essentially a story about the bond of family, but told in an unconventional way to show how a family can evolve and grow stronger even in the face of conflict and tragedy. The story is told well, the themes are subtly revealed through truly endearing characters.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    It wasn't so much one character but the combination of the father and his two daughters.


    Any additional comments?

    The plot was certainly interesting but it was the characters that brought this story to life. The author really takes you through the mind of a father as he juggles many complex emotions, and most are not easy. Yet somehow through everything that happens, his story is not tragic at all--listening to the story is a heart warming experience, not a sad one.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Alison 06-22-14
    Alison 06-22-14 Member Since 2014
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    "Kaui Hart Hemmings needs to write more books!"
    What did you love best about The Descendants?

    Always blown away when a female author can write from a first-person, male point of view. This beautiful, subtle story about family and tragedy and the nuances of familial love and the complexity of marriage is a rare, delicious find. Also love the sense of place -- like spending time in Hawaii ... I never wanted to leave! Kaui Hart Hemmings is the first writer I've found in a long time that I want to see more from. She's outstanding.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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