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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

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  •  
    Michael Walnut Creek, CA, United States 02-06-12
    Michael Walnut Creek, CA, United States 02-06-12 Member Since 2002

    I focus on fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, science, history, politics and read a lot. I try to review everything I read.

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    "Not Sappy instead honestly elicits tears & laughs"

    I expected this book to be sappy, instead it was touching and funny with hardly a drop of sap. The characters are excellently developed, especially considering the novel is completely first person narrative. I came to know even the minor characters. This was a beautiful story of a family in decent, due to stress & sorrow, accident & adolescence, isolation & infidelity, betrayal & banality. Yet instead of ripping things apart, these pressures slowly catalyze new strengths and bonds. This novel is simple and honest. Occasionally I found myself tearing up, only to smile or laugh at the next sentence. There was very little wrong with this novel. Now, I will certainly see the movie (but I would recommend doing the book first). The protagonist seems perfectly written for Clooney. Although the narration was excellent, I sometimes wished Clooney had narrated.

    27 of 27 people found this review helpful
  •  
    William 01-30-12
    William 01-30-12
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    "Endearing story - No One Handle Death the Same"

    Death, cheating and love. What happens when a family has to deal with their personal world falling down, while the world moves forward.
    Good book, I see why they made it into a movie. Sorry guys, no blood, gore, or gratuitous sex. This book just deals with a man trying to do the best he can, as he has to deal with emotions, and sometimes that is painful.

    16 of 16 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Novie Kailua Kona, HI, United States 03-03-13
    Novie Kailua Kona, HI, United States 03-03-13 Member Since 2002

    Retired nightclub performer/computer technician, I now teach hula and ukulele to seniors, and record Hawaiian music for my halau!

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    "An interesting perspective..."

    I saw the movie last year and have had a while to appreciate the underlying moral of this tale. Listening to the story was startling in some ways. For instance, as an old lady, I was a little shocked at Scottie's precociousness, while at the same time found it totally believable. The young people that I am around today behave much the same as this ten-year-old. Her father, Matthew King, is as shocked as I was, and constantly berates himself for being an absent father. Alex, his older daughter, is world-wise and smart-mouthed as many young teen aged girls are, and it is interesting to watch her develop into a role model for her younger sister as the story evolves.

    The mother is lying comatose in Queen's Hospital and the timeline is when the doctor tells Matt that they are going to pull the plug. He has to deal with this, and with other small details, like finding out his wife was cheating on him, and his children are potty-mouthed and spoiled -- you know, the everyday stuff we all go through. But there is another story! I haven't noticed that any other reviewer mentioned this.

    The most interesting aspect of the story for me was hearing Matt's turmoil regarding his family's history. We who live in Hawaii are always blaming the missionaries and land-grabbers of long ago, and even today tend to look upon their descendants as entitled S.O.B.s who don't belong here and don't deserve what they "lucked in to". As a descendant of royalty, Matt lives with some notoriety in the community, even though he is of Hawaiian blood. Although he lives only on his own earnings as a lawyer, people behave as though he has bags of cash laying around the house. His own father-in-law berates him because of this. But the truth is -- although he is the trustee of multi-million dollar real estate, he is more or less cash-poor. Now the family has offers to sell the land to out-of-state developers, and money hungry cousins are positioning themselves to receive their portion of the landfall expected by the sale. It's all in Matt's hands. He is the largest shareholder of the trust and he alone determines the disposition of the trust. Does he pave paradise or "malama the `aina" (take care of the land)?

    Matt struggles with this decision, one that will surely change the face and fate of the island state. I would like to think that all the descendants of Hawaiian royalty who control lands here in the islands have the heart and soul of Matthew King - Hawaiian man.

    Oh yes, and the narrator was not that bad. In fact, I only laughed once when he said, "High-low" for Hilo. It should be HEE-low". The rest of the time he was pretty good. He did his homework.

    11 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    glamazon The Coast of Rhode Island 07-04-11
    glamazon The Coast of Rhode Island 07-04-11 Member Since 2003

    glam

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    "Try it, you'll love it!"

    I came to this novel through watching a trailer for the movie by the same name. We'll have to wait a bit for the movie, but in the meantime, content yourself with this read. As mentioned in the book blurbs, the movie features George Clooney, and after watching some of the scenes unfold, when reading the book, his persona infuses every scene. To the complete advantage of the entire story, I will add.

    This novel has that perfectly dissonant blend of humor and grace, of sarcasm and solemnity, and brilliantly handles all those "OMG what do I do now?" moments with unbelievable delicacy and with a moment-by-moment way of working things out. The added base note and a solid character in its own right is the lush ecosystem of the Hawaiian islands and their culture, and the main character's historical and emotional connection to that environment, where his family has lived and prospered for centuries. Not just another family drama in paradise! Read this one, you won't be sorry. And I think you'll enjoy the movie all the more.

    33 of 35 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Allison Delray Beach, Florida, United States 04-25-12
    Allison Delray Beach, Florida, United States 04-25-12 Member Since 2011

    Disney Princess

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    "Powerfully written. Sadly honest."
    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Descendants?

    I greatly enjoyed all of the family dynamics, but I really liked the portions of the book with adolescent Scottie and her father, Matt. I felt author Hemmings really captured the painful change from innocent childhood and super-sexualized teen years, and what a struggle it is for fathers to suddenly see their young girls become budding young women.


    Have you listened to any of Jonathan Davis’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    Jonathan Davis was a smart, wry narrator -- it made perfect sense that the character he voiced (the protagonist, Matt King) would be played by George Clooney in the film adaptation. This was the first audiobook voiced by Jonathan Davis that I've heard.


    If you could rename The Descendants, what would you call it?

    Heartbroken in Hawaii -- cheesy, right? But that pretty much sums it up.


    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joan Mountain Top, PA, United States 10-15-12
    Joan Mountain Top, PA, United States 10-15-12 Member Since 2011
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    "It was beautifully read!"
    Where does The Descendants rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    Well compare to the other books I have listen to this ranks right up there at the top. It matched up to the same flow as when I watched the movie. The mood of each character was brought to life and everyone once in awhile brought a smile to my face.


    What does Jonathan Davis bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    He really did a great flow of reading the book. I could actually hear the voice of George Clooney as he read his lines! Kudos I look forward to here other books that he has narrated.


    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Linda Morrow, GA, United States 10-01-12
    Linda Morrow, GA, United States 10-01-12 Member Since 2012

    Mother of three, grandmother of two, work full time as a labor and delivery nurse and love to listen to books while I am doing other things.

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    "Loved this book!!!!"

    I have not seen the movie yet but I loved the book. The story was interesting, the narrator was great and I enjoyed the whole thing. I listened to it twice.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    JAMIEE Haleiwa, HI, United States 02-14-13
    JAMIEE Haleiwa, HI, United States 02-14-13
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    "I loved it!"

    I really enjoyed this book. The fact that I live in Hawaii probably played a role in why it was so fascinating to me. I haven't seen the movie yet but now it is definitely on my to-watch list. But back to the book...I thought the characters were well developed and likable. The emotions and scenarios described throughout the story were very real and at times I laughed and teared up. While there were a few jarring mispronounciations of Hawaiian words, in general the narrator handled the words a lot better than I expected him to (based on some of the reviews I read before listening). Overall, despite those few mispronounciations, I thought the narrator did a fantastic job. He was the perfect choice for Mr. King! I definitely recommend this book.

    5 of 5 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.

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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 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Debra Fleetwood, NC, United States 01-24-12
    Debra Fleetwood, NC, United States 01-24-12
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    "A Sleeper, with an Awakening"

    The Descendants teaches a number of small lessons wrapped into a bigger story. A true testament of how many working dads are unaware of the disconnection they have with their children, and the road back. How along that road, there are little bumps and great big bumps. However, each bump brings this father, back to being a dad.

    Knowing you have a spouse whose heath deteriorates to a place where there is no turning back, is much different than losing a spouse suddenly. Knowing this, Alex and Scotty begin finding their father as they lose their mother.

    Although, the story is that of a broken love and love that is lost to death, The Descendants goes deeper than only one subject. Within this tale you will find parenting, relationships, Hawaiian history, fun, and truth. It is a well written, well read novel that allows you the feeling of being there, helping the characters and learning along the way.

    9 of 10 people found this review helpful
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