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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

Critic Reviews

"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 listeners say about The Descendants

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

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.

37 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

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.

30 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

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.

24 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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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.

18 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars

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.

10 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

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.

9 people found this helpful

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  • JJ
  • 12-06-11

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 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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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.

6 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

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 people found this helpful

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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 people found this helpful