The Descendants
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Descendants

3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  12,327 ratings  ·  1,853 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...more
Hardcover, 283 pages
Published May 15th 2007 by Random House (first published January 1st 2007)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Descendants, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Descendants

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!
341st out of 815 books — 4,587 voters
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. TolkienForrest Gump by Winston GroomThe Hunger Games by Suzanne CollinsThe Godfather by Mario PuzoHarry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
Books made into really good movies
48th out of 389 books — 145 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
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
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...more

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...more
Beth Bonini
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...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Neal Sanders
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
José-contemplates-Saturn's Aurora
A story set in Hawaii.

Matthew is a very rich lawyer; he’s rotten rich mainly because of heritages he got that 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-boat...more
Susan Johnson
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...more
Dec 07, 2011 SA rated it 2 of 5 stars
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...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
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...more
Book Concierge
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...more
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
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....more
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...more
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
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...more
**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...more
Elizabeth A
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
The concise prose exposes the raw terrain of strained family relationships brought into new relief by the wife/mother's debilitating accident.
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!
Robert E.  Kennedy Library
Seeing the movie preview prompted me to seek out this book and quickly read it before it left the Palm. The novel, based on a short story, is Hemmings’ first, and its characters grabbed me from the first page. A distracted, work-obsessed father, Matt King, is forced to take a much more hands-on role with his two daughters when his daredevil wife Elizabeth falls into a coma after a boating accident. I know, it sounds like an after-school special or a soap opera Friday afternoon cliffhanger, but i...more
The basis for the movie, this book is almost as good to read as it is to see. Much of the dialogue is taken straight from the book. As always, there are actions in the book that are not used in the screenplay. A couple of these really struck me.

One is the banana game. I'm not going to tell you what it is; you're going to have to read it for yourself. This is something my dad would do.

The other one is the playing with names. This is something I do all the time. Instead of "man o' war," use "minor...more
Matt King is having a big week. His wife Joanie, in an irreversible coma after a boating accident, is being removed from life support, and at the same time, Matt must must decide to which developer he will sell the half-billion dollars worth of pristine Kauai property that his family owns as descendants of Hawaiian royalty. As he's trying to figure out how he's going to be the sole parent to his daughters, 10-year-old Scottie and 17-year-old Alex, and help them say goodbye to their mother, he le...more
A light and easy read; mildly interesting and pleasantly paced. I wanted to read the book because Jim Rash wrote the screenplay for the movie. I have not seen the movie. I would have liked to have known more about Matt; what type of lawyer he was, why he was so disconnected from just about everyone. Upon the advent of his wife's death, he seems to be meeting his friends and family for the first time. I'm not sure how I feel about his character. He seems to let life happen to him. Now that I'm fi...more
Aug 12, 2012 Lisa rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people that don't mind reading about dysfunctional families
Shelves: fiction, 4-star
On the surface Matt King might appear to have it all: an attractive family and a career as a successful lawyer. He is also a descendent of a royal Hawaiian family, making him a very land rich man.

The reality is that his family and his life are a mess! All of the characters are selfish jerks, but some how the author was able to make me like almost all of them. Even as I was repulsed by the things the characters said and did, I wanted to see the family work through their big problems.

I think that...more
I picked this up for a couple of reasons. Initially, I was interested in it because of the movie, which looked intriguing (still haven't seen it). Then as I was researching and preparing to read books prior to my upcoming vacation to Hawaii (!!!!), I realized this book is set there. I added myself to the waiting list at my library and it became available way faster than I imagined.

At first, I was a bit bored - or maybe that's not the right word. The main character, the father, started out by gra...more
I'm not sure what I think of this book. It's well written, full of little ironies and strangely touching moments. The characters are, for the most part, round; the narrator's voice is authentic, and the setting so realistic that I looked up from reading it and was briefly surprised that I was in cold, snowy Routt County rather than a tropical island. Hemmings tells the story of a tragedy that befalls a Hawaiian family, and she seems determined to make sure we understand that bad things don't jus...more
I borrowed this book from the library based solely on its setting. For whatever reason, I've had an obsession with Hawaii lately, and I wanted to read some books set there. I'd never heard of the book or the movie that apparently came out recently, and I was a little surprised when it arrived with a picture of George Clooney on the front.

About halfway through the book, I almost put it down. I found every single character completely unsympathetic, including the lady in the coma, and reading the b...more
I read this because I want to watch the movie and like to read the book first, if possible. Unfortunately for me, I know that George Clooney is in the movie, so kept picturing Matt as George Clooney. Oh, well. The story centers around Matt King, a descendant of missionaries to Hawaii, one of whom married a Hawaiian princess. Because of royal ties, the King clan has amassed a large parcel of land, but is considering selling it. As if that weren't enough to worry about, Matt's wife, Joanie is lyin...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
  • The Invisible Storm
  • The Ghost and Mrs. Muir
  • Shelter
  • A Ticket to Ride
  • The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
  • Leaving Las Vegas
  • Paper Moon
  • The Last Aloha
  • Little Black Dress
  • The Company You Keep
  • Social Blunders (GroVont Trilogy, #3)
  • House of Many Gods
  • When Harry Met Sally
  • A Legacy of Madness: Recovering My Family from Generations of Mental Illness
  • Hick
  • The Little Shadows
  • All My Puny Sorrows
  • More Than You Know
I'm the author of The Descendants, House of Thieves, and the Possibilities (May 13, 2014) Visit my website:
More about Kaui Hart Hemmings...
The Possibilities House of Thieves Juniors

Share This Book

“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.” 419 likes
“Why is it so hard to articulate love yet so easy to express disappointment?” 162 likes
More quotes…