The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings

Posted November 12, 2011 by Kara in Uncategorized / 5 Comments

Publisher: Random House
Release Date: October 4th, 2011
Pages: 320
Genre: Adult Contemporary, Literary Fiction
Cover: A-I love the movie tie-in cover much more than the original. And that has nothing to do with the fact that George Clooney is on the cover.
*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The DescendantsThe Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Fortunes have changed for the King family, descendants of Hawaiian royalty and one of the state’s largest landowners. Matthew King’s daughters—Scottie, a feisty ten-year-old, and Alex, a seventeen-year-old recovering drug addict—are out of control, and their charismatic, thrill-seeking mother, Joanie, lies in a coma after a boat-racing accident. She will soon be taken off life support. As Matt gathers his wife’s friends and family to say their final goodbyes, a difficult situation is made worse by the sudden discovery that there’s one person who hasn’t been told: the man with whom Joanie had been having an affair. Forced to examine what they owe not only to the living but to the dead, Matt, Scottie, and Alex take to the road to find Joanie’s lover, on a memorable journey that leads to unforeseen humor, growth, and profound revelations.


The Descendants made me feel so many things while I was reading it. Sad, uncomfortable, a little bit lost (as I could relate to some of the things going on in this book in my life at the moment), but it was also extremely funny. But more awkward funny than FUNNY funny. Let me explain. You know how sometimes in real life you are in situations where you probably shouldn’t laugh, but you do anyway? Maybe someone falls down, or your senile grandpa does something really stupid, and it’s sad, but you also laugh because it’s so ridiculous? Yeah. There were a lot of those awkward funny moments in this book.

It was so good. First of all, the characters. They jump off the page. In a crazy good way. They felt extremely real. This is a book about real people in real-life situations. When your wife is in a coma, and then you find out she’s cheating on you, you tend to act out in some really strange ways. And Matt was no exception. He does some really weird things. He is suddenly forced into the position of being a single father and he has no idea what he is supposed to do or how he is supposed to do it. It’s kind of a comedy of errors. Only I wouldn’t necessarily call them errors. Mishaps, maybe? I don’t know.

One of the things I was surprised to find out was that this book was published in 2008. I can’t believe that this book didn’t get more attention when it was published. Because it is truly a great read. The author has a tremendous writer’s voice. I would read anything she writes. Easily.

And the setting of Hawaii? It enhanced the story in ways you cannot even imagine. This family is going through so much. And all around them there are people on vacation in a beautiful setting enjoying life. It was such a strange contradiction, but it really added to the awkwardness of the narrative. If this book had happened somewhere else, say Ohio or something, I don’t think it would have had the same impact.

I would recommend this book to anyone who loves to read adult fiction. There is something for everyone here. I fell in love with Matt and his kids. I believe they have a bright future as a family and I feel really strange about this, but I almost feel like they are real people. What a fantastic read. One of my favorites of 2011.

Now go get the Academy Award Mr. Clooney!

To purchase a copy of The Descendants from, click here: The Descendants: A Novel . And please do. It’s worth every penny.

5 responses to “The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings

  1. nicky

    Kara thanks for this review. I have to agree with you.. the book was sooo special. I thought you’d like to know its being discussed on Elaine Charles radio show on the 25th. I’m sure she will probably agree with a lot of what you wrote but she always gives fun insight on the book that you would never know! As a book lover I’m sure you know her show but if not… lucky day for you! its my own little private book club.

    • Thanks, Nicky. While I don’t currently have the time to listen to radio shows, I thank you very much for the recommendation. Someone else may see it and listen in. Glad you loved the book. It’s truly special. 🙂

  2. The storyline is slim. There’s a lot of word spinning around it. Matt, the protagonist, is a sad sack and most of his time is spent saying internally “poor me, I’m such a hopless father.” I found myself not really caring about him. His daughters characters are better drawn. A quick read but not much more than that

    • That’s too bad, Italia! I really loved Matt. It’s been awhile since I read the book, but I loved ALL of the characters. I thought the book was fantastic and a lovely snapshot of life. But you are right, it was more about the characters than the story. Definitely a character driven novel, rather than a plot driven one. I still loved it though and thought it was much more than a quick read. I really got lost in its pages. Thanks for your comment. 🙂

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge