I fell head over heels for the movie adaptation of The Descendants a few years back. This family dealing with their grief struck me as true to life. The loss of a loved one can be overwhelming but life still goes forward, even when you’re dying inside. The Descendants captured that dichotomy and I’ve been meaning to read the book ever since.
The novel centers on Matt King and his family. Matt’s great grandmother was a Hawaiian princess and he and his cousins are the owners of some large amounts of Hawaiian land. They’re trying to decide what to do with this land and who to sell it to when Matt’s wife, Joanie, gets hurt in a boating accident and goes into a coma. Matt’s trying to deal with how to come to terms with his unideal marriage while supporting his two daughters. They’re all dealing with grief in their own ways and it isn’t pretty.
Despite being about grief, Hemmings manages to make The Descendants very funny in parts and introspective in others. I loved that it made me think about my own relationships and people I’ve lost without being overly grim. More than anything, I’d call this book bittersweet. Hemmings’ writing is solid and her characterizations are strong. Even though it centers on Matt, the supporting characters are given plenty of depth so they feel like real people. This is a book I can unreservedly recommend to everyone.