Clementine's Reviews > The Descendants

The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings
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's review
Mar 28, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: 2012, favourites
Read from March 22 to 29, 2012

Like many others, I saw the movie before reading the book. I know, I know, shame on me. I loved the movie, and a friend had the book and offered to loan it to me, so of course I accepted.

Having thoroughly enjoyed the movie, I had high expectations for the book, and I wasn't disappointed. I think I was most impressed by Hemmings' amazing ability to create rich, deeply flawed characters who I could still feel sympathy and empathy towards. Matt is a terrible father - absent and clueless - but he's a likeable narrator. (And no, it's not just because he's George Clooney!) He's hilarious, and the way he talks to his daughters is both horrifying and enjoyable. And he had such emotional depth, with a wide range of thoughts and feelings that seemed perfectly realistic.

I also loved Sid, despite the fact that he's horribly inappropriate. He seems like the kind of idiot who you should roll your eyes at, but under all of that he's surprisingly sweet and loveable. His backstory didn't seem at all forced to me, although the part with Eliza was slightly predictable. That's so minor, though.

Joanie was another impressive character. Although we see a bit of her through Matt's memories, she's not fully developed in her own right, as she never has a chance to properly speak for herself. Yet by the end of the book, I felt like I really knew her - and I liked her, even though she put her family through so much and probably wasn't the best mother or wife.

In the end, all of the characters were like that. They had strong and obvious flaws and equally present good characteristics. I haven't read a book in which I've felt like the characters are so real in a very long time. I really felt like I was in Matt's head - and since I'm a teenage girl and he's a middle-aged man, that's most decidedly a testament to Hemmings' skill.

Moving on from the characters, the emotional tone of the book was perfect. It was sad and touching but funny and irreverent at the same time. It was confusing, beautiful, and dark. The whole thing has a tone of nostalgia, I thought. I never felt like Hemmings was trying to wring emotion out if the reader, which often happens in books about death. It's so difficult to make a reader feel all those emotions without being heavy handed, but she manages to do so flawlessly.

Hemmings' description is also beautiful. I loved her attention to detail and the vivid descriptions of Hawaii. Hawaii seemed like a character in the book, not just the setting of a sad story.

I just found the entire thing very impressive. There was a lot going on here and everything really pulled together to create a rich and beautiful novel.
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03/28/2012 page 162

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