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The Descendants

3.82  ·  Rating Details  ·  16,334 Ratings  ·  2,141 Reviews
Narrated in a bold, fearless, unforgettable voice and set against the lush, panoramic backdrop of Hawaii, The Descendants is a stunning debut novel about an unconventional family forced to come together and re-create its own legacy.

Matthew King was once considered one of the most fortunate men in Hawaii. His missionary ancestors were financially and culturally progressive
Hardcover, 283 pages
Published May 15th 2007 by Random House (first published 2007)
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Forrest Gump by Winston GroomThe Devil Wears Prada by Lauren WeisbergerJurassic Park by Michael CrichtonJumanji by Chris Van AllsburgMary Poppins by P.L. Travers
I Only Watched the Movie!
367th out of 967 books — 5,624 voters
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. TolkienForrest Gump by Winston GroomThe Hunger Games by Suzanne CollinsHarry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. RowlingThe Godfather by Mario Puzo
Books made into really good movies
58th out of 462 books — 202 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Aug 07, 2013 Jason rated it liked it
Shelves: for-kindle, reviewed, 2013
The other day my friend was saying to me that she recently saw The Descendants and thought it was a pretty dumb name for a film which has nothing to do with the protagonist’s descendants. I have not seen it yet, but I thought maybe the title was more overtly related to the book, a relation which then became lost in its translation to film. Regardless, it does fit the book rather nicely—and it is not about the protagonist’s descendants, either, but about his being a descendant: a descendant of Ha ...more

I have always had a soft spot for books written by women from the point of view of a male character. I find them endearing. Men writing as women can often be a little unconvincing, with lots of lines like, ‘I jogged up the steps, my breasts bouncing lightly under my summery blouse’, or, ‘Suddenly, my period started.’ Women writing as men do not make these sorts of mistakes; you don't get things like, ‘I marched into the bathroom and urinated fiercely, remaining standing throughout,’ although I h
Have you ever been sitting somewhere, life moving all around you, and in that moment you are completely aware? You can see the pieces of who you were yesterday falling to the ground as today begins to fill in the holes and all you can manage to do is sit there and watch it dissolve. And as much as you know you need to get up, to start assimilating, you find yourself repeating under your breath, "How did I get here? How is this my life?" This is that juncture actualized.

Matt isn't the best father
Jul 19, 2008 Audrey rated it it was amazing

I'm not sure where this author came from, but look out! Her characters are in your FACE--funny and scary--with an emotional swirl in the background that makes it hard to breathe.

The premise, which is almost beside the point, is that Matthew King's wife is in a coma. And he has to rise up to the occasion, and be a parent in a way he never was before. You realize, along with him, that these wild, angry girls never really had a parent of any kind.

Characters--daughters and fathers--talk to e
Jul 12, 2016 Owlseyes rated it really liked it
A story set in Hawaii.

Matthew is a very rich lawyer; he’s rotten rich mainly because of heritages he got which date back to his grand grandmother princess Kekipi: she married a banker who was her assets manager; now Matt has plenty of properties to sell; and yet he prefers using the money of his own job: ”I don’t like heritages”.

She was seven years younger than Matt. They met 20 years ago. They got married, they had two daughters ….but now she’s in a hospital, in a coma; she had a racing-bo
Beth Bonini
Feb 04, 2012 Beth Bonini rated it it was amazing
I saw the film last night, and read the novel today. Couldn't put it down.

I like that order to things: film, and then novel. If I've liked the characters/story (in the film), I like to go to the book because I'm sure to find more detail and more emotional analysis/insight there. And that was certainly the case with this novel. While the film was really faithful to the novel, OF COURSE there is always going to just be MORE of everything in a book. What you particularly get more of in this book is
Jun 19, 2016 Cait rated it did not like it
Shelves: did-not-like, fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 12, 2015 Katie rated it liked it
So I may or may not have read this while I was at work over the last month...and I liked it, but I'm not sure if I would have finished it had I not been sitting around at work doing nothing. It was well written and kept my interest even though I've seen the movie and knew what was going to happen. Probably the only thing that kept me from fully enjoying this book was that sometimes the way the dad spoke about his daughters made me uncomfortable. That's about it.
Dec 07, 2011 SA rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2011
You know, it's not until I start reading contemporary fiction that I remember I don't especially enjoy it. Not to be simplistic, but if there isn't a dead body, a spaceship, or magic, I'm not the immediate target market for your book.

I picked this one up, though, because it continues my theme of reading books set in Hawai'i, and because the film based on the book has been released.

It took more than half the book to sympathize with the character--he doesn't talk about love that he has for his w
Susan Johnson
Dec 28, 2011 Susan Johnson rated it it was amazing
I was hesitant to read this book. They made a movie with George Clooney based on it and I thought it was going to be some romantic, Hollywood drivel. Boy was I ever wrong. This is a layered story of loss, acceptance, discovery and those first few steps to a new life.
Matt King has had everything handed to him in life. The descendant of a Hawaiian princess and a white missionary, he is the controlling partner of a family trust overseeing a great deal of Hawaiian land. He has made his life on his
Mar 30, 2016 Phyllis rated it really liked it
This is the story of a family in Hawaii. The father is a busy lawyer , his wife is in a coma from a boating accident. His two daughters he has know idea how to cope with them. He has not spent a lot of time with them and now must be both father and mother. He is a descendant of a Hawaiian princess who married a white land owner. I loved this book. It was well written, funny, sad, and you could see the changes in the characters as the story developed. Decisions had to be made about the wife's wor ...more
Neal Sanders
Dec 29, 2011 Neal Sanders rated it it was amazing
At heart, all novelists are dreamers. We concoct vivid stories from fleeting, overheard comments and turn complex ideas into 85,000 words of captivating prose. As we write, we envision other people absorbing our words and finding pleasure or guidance in them. If we are honest, we cherish the idea that our stories might reach tens of thousands – or hundreds of thousands - of readers. And, if we truly dream big, we envision our words finding their way onto the screen so that millions of people who ...more
Ann Collette
After seeing the movie, I decided to read the book, in order to better understand character motivation. The movie is surprisingly faithful to the structure of the book but the character of the wife is fleshed out much better in the novel. Matt King, the titular head of an extended family with traces of Hawaiian blood, is in charge of deciding what developer to sell the family's pristine Hawaiian land to. Between trying to make that decision (mostly by avoiding it) and focusing too much on his wo ...more
Oct 04, 2012 Alison rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This family melodrama set on Hawaii is an impressively brave, charming and intelligent novel. The themes that it sets out to tackle are tough, no doubt about it - dying, parenting, adolescence, infidelity - yet it handles them with irrepressible warmth, humour and dignity without ever seeming fake or cliched.

The characters are each in turn so hostile, warm, selfish, caring, vengeful, forgiving, idiotic, intelligent and a hundred other things beside that I found them utterly believable and ultima
Apr 20, 2016 Marla rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks
I enjoyed this more than I thought I would. It's sad how this dysfunctional family comes together as Joanie, wife and mother is dying in the hospital after an accident.
Mar 11, 2013 Snotchocheez rated it really liked it

So goes Part Two of my tour of source material for Alexander Payne movies; a director notoriously finicky in culling through (relatively) unknown authors' works, and (in my opinion) spinning gold from straw. I'm happy to report that, unlike Rex Pickett's clunky, only occasionally funny but more often annoying Sideways (Part One of my tour), Kaui Hart Hemmings' The Descendants is every bit as good as the movie, perhaps even slightly better.

The story of middle-aged haole-Hawaiian Matt King's comi
Book Concierge
Jun 24, 2016 Book Concierge rated it liked it
Audio book performed by Jonathan Davis

Most everyone thinks Matthew King is one of the luckiest men in Hawaii. His great-grandfather was a missionary who married a Hawaiian princess, making Matt a royal descendant and owner (with his cousins) of one of the largest pieces of undeveloped real estate in the islands. But that is not his focus these days. His wife Joanie lies in a coma after a boating accident and he is left trying to deal with his two daughters – 10-year-old Scottie and 17-year
Mar 13, 2012 Alicia rated it really liked it
Although the movie put George Clooney in my head the whole time I was reading, I really could see him in the role of Matt King. (Loved the nod to him on page 44 when Scottie, the 10 year old daughter, was described as wearing a Mrs. Clooney t-shirt!) I am looking forward to seeing the adaptation. I found humor and affection in Matt's irreverent style of parenting. (Their family situation might seem unconventional and judgement-worthy, but truthfully there is at least a hint of both the marital s ...more
Mar 08, 2012 Ashley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really liked this. I saw the movie before reading the book, which I hate doing because I feel the book gets ruined. I'm always ready to be "at the good parts" the movie showed.

But, in my true fashion I cared for the book more than the movie, but both were great. I liked how the booked delved into the characters of Sid and Joannie. Sid seems so random in the movie, but his character actually makes a lot of sense. This might be harsh, but... I had abosolutely no simpathy for Joannie's character.
Perrin Pring
The only things I knew about this book when I started it were that it was a movie, and the movie was set in Hawaii.

That being said, The Descendants surprised me greatly by becoming one of the best books I've read all year (and I've read a few books).

I'm not going to dwell too much on the plot. The reason to read this book is because of the characters. They are dysfunctional, flawed, lovable, laughable and larger than life. My favorite character is, by far, the protagonist's, Matt King's, 10-yea
Nov 19, 2012 Will rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a hard book to read, and ironically it's because the language is so easy. Matt King, the protagonist, isn't trying to impress you with his intelligence or make beautiful words. He's just trying to make sense of his life -- his wife is in a coma in the hospital, and his two girls, Scottie and Alex... are acting like children. Or teenagers. He's a father without any guidebook or external support, and he's telling himself that things are going to be okay, and his wife is going to come out o ...more
Elizabeth K.
Jul 25, 2014 Elizabeth K. rated it it was ok
Shelves: didn-t-finish
I gave this the old college try but couldn't keep going. I found all the characters extremely unpleasant, and while there are great books with unsympathetic characters, this one didn't seem to have much else going for it other than the characters. It wasn't as if I could say "oh, but the writing was so sharp," or "oh, but the plot was so intriguing." I had nothing else to hang my hat on, so I made it about halfway through and called it a day.

The plot: upper middle class people get really bent ov
Elizabeth A
Jun 26, 2014 Elizabeth A rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
This story explores themes of family, love, loss, land and legacy. Matt King has a lot going on: his 10 year old daughter is out of control, his 17 year old daughter is doing who knows what with who knows whom, his family is sitting on the largest piece of Hawaiian real estate not bulldozed into strip malls and luxury hotels and everyone wants a piece of that deal, and his wife was in a boating accident and has been in a coma for almost a month. Oh, and he learns that his wife has been having an ...more
Jan 24, 2013 Cameron rated it it was amazing
Having the desire to read the source material for what was my favorite movie from 2011, I picked up The Descendants and began reading. One of my first impressions, and one that lasted with me throughout the book, was how amazingly close the Oscar-winning screenplay was to the book. Shockingly close. "Anyone who can command+c and command+v can write a screenplay," I thought.

And then I started to appreciate the real beauty in the book that I was reading. Much like the movie, it is heartbreakingly
Feb 14, 2012 Yllacaspia rated it liked it
**This review has spoilers**
Overall, I thought the book was ok. It’s not one I would have chosen to buy: it was a book club book.
On the positive side, I thought the characterisation was strong. I liked Sid and Scottie, particularly.
On the bad side, the book isn’t particularly well-written, and the plotting is lazy. The writing style reminded me, overwhelmingly, of books by Judy Blume and Paula Danziger and at times it was hard to really believe I was meant to be reading the thoughts and feeling
#2016-usa-geography-challenge: HAWAII

Matt King and his cousins have inherited a large chunk of the Hawaiian islands from their ancestors, the missionary and the Hawaiian princess. Their sole purpose in life has been to have fun but now face the decision whether to sell out to developers and see Wal-Marts and mini-malls built on the ancestral land. And Matt happens to hold the biggest share.

But Matt has more personal problems at the moment--his wife Joanie is lying in a coma after a boating acci
Ana Ovejero
Dec 29, 2015 Ana Ovejero rated it really liked it
Matthew King, the protagonist of this novel, lives in Hawaii and owns, with his relatives, most of the land of the island. Why? Because they're the descendants of a white merchant and an indeginous princess.

However, the story written by female author Kaui Hart Hemmings (I've looked it up) is about the accident that leaves Matthew's wife in an irreversible comma state, how their two daughters (one a teenager, the other a 10-year-old) react to the fact that their mother will die, how Matthew tries
Jenny (Reading Envy)
This novel is more about a family grieving a mother in a coma than it is about the issue of descendency and land ownership in Hawaii like I originally expected. It was fine, decent, I just don't think I'll remember it for very long.
Mar 04, 2009 Mary rated it really liked it
The concise prose exposes the raw terrain of strained family relationships brought into new relief by the wife/mother's debilitating accident.
Mar 31, 2008 Patricia rated it it was amazing
Such a touching book. For those of us who live here in Hawaii and know the social and political scene -- this book was right on!
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I'm the author of The Descendants, House of Thieves, The Possibilities and Juniors, a YA novel. My next novel, How to Party with an Infant will be published August 9 2016. Visit my website:
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“That's how you know you love someone, I guess, when you can't experience anything without wishing the other person were there to see it, too.” 542 likes
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