Robert E. Kennedy Library 's Reviews > The Descendants

The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings
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's review
Feb 24, 2012

liked it

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 in Hemmings’ hands the comatose wife is not just a dramatic plot device, especially since we know from the beginning of the book that she’s dying. Matt is slower to accept this fact, and is then faced with telling his daughters, as well as their many friends.

But his grief gets even more complicated when his oldest daughter tells him that Elizabeth has been cheating on him: now anger and betrayal are added to the mix. He vacillates between wanting to give his wife’s lover the opportunity to say goodbye, and his more visceral urge to tell the guy off. Further complications ensue when he discovers the lover’s involvement in a family land sale decision that he is solely responsible for.

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Reviewed by Jan, Kennedy Library staff.
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Comments (showing 1-10 of 10) (10 new)

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message 1: by Tina (new) - added it

Tina Strange review, basically just a synopsis that anyone who's seen the film could have written. Based on your rating you didn't especially care for it. Why?

message 2: by Jan (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jan I did like it -- rated it 3 stars, which means "liked it", and said that it grabbed me from the first page.

Sorry you didn't like the review!

Fiona Caldarevic The comatose wife's name wasn't Elizabeth; it was Joanie.

Nancy Thank you Fiona!

message 5: by Tina (new) - added it

Tina I didn't so much dislike your review as found what sounded like high praise at odds with your rating. And your high praise wasn't limited to "grabbed me from the first page," you also discussed the way Hemmings builds an artful work from a mundane plot device. In other words your review is quite good. Your explanation for your rating, which is makes perfect sense in the real world, is interesting because I work with authors who dread three-star reviews as "soft negatives," (and no one would ever accuse them of living in the real world). I forwarded your answer, but I doubt it will make them feel any better when they see the dreaded three stars!

message 6: by Jan (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jan Thanks for clarifying -- hard to figure how "I liked it" could be read as a soft negative. 2 stars -- "it was OK" -- sounds more like a soft negative to me. But I appreciate your explanation, even at this late date.

What sort of work do you do with authors?

message 7: by Tina (new) - added it

Tina I'm sorry it took so long to reply. I was an intern and hadn't logged into this account since I went back to school. I was helping with publicity, finding reviewers, setting up interviews, etc., and, yes, I always forward four and five star reviews to them. Again, it doesn't have anything to do with your actual review. The only logic I can think of is that they just think a middle rating means "C".

message 8: by Jan (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jan Thanks for getting back to me. I guess everyone has a different interpretation of what the number of stars mean, which makes it a problematic system.

Good luck in school!

Erin The wife's name in the book is Joanie, not Elizabeth. Weird for someone who read the book?

message 10: by Jan (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jan Erin-

Saw the book, then read the movie -- that's where my confusion came from.


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