The Descendants is a novel about a dysfunctional family that has to pull itself together as their wife/mother lies dying in the hospital.
I read The Descendants as part of the 2021 Thoughtful Reading Challenge. December’s challenge is to read a book set in Hawaii in honor of the 80th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Here’s the plot summary from Amazon:
“Fortunes have changed for the King family, descendants of Hawaiian royalty and one of the state’s largest landowners. Matthew King’s daughters—Scottie, a feisty ten-year-old, and Alex, a seventeen-year-old recovering drug addict—are out of control, and their charismatic, thrill-seeking mother, Joanie, lies in a coma after a boat-racing accident. She will soon be taken off life support.
As Matt gathers his wife’s friends and family to say their final goodbyes, a difficult situation is made worse by the sudden discovery that there’s one person who hasn’t been told: the man with whom Joanie had been having an affair. Forced to examine what they owe not only to the living but to the dead, Matt, Scottie, and Alex take to the road to find Joanie’s lover, on a memorable journey that leads to unforeseen humor, growth, and profound revelations.”
The subtitle of this book could have been “How to be a Bad Parent.” Matt was evidently completely checked out of his daughters’ lives and watching him try to be a responsible parent is like watching a twelve-year-old boy playing the role of “dad” in a school play. I mean, he dragged his kids along to confront their dying mom’s lover. Who does that? I think the family is doomed.
On the plus side, I thought the hospital scenes were done well. Having had a parent in a medically induced coma, I could relate to the feeling of not being sure what to say and do while sitting next to a hospital bed. Does the person hear you or even know you’re there? Should I hold his hand? Should I read to him or play his favorite music? And the gut wrenching feeling of holding onto futile hope also rang true.
Despite the well-written hospital scenes, I didn’t much care for this book. The characters, including the dying mom, were all unlikable. And Matt exasperated me so much that I couldn’t even applaud his minor moments of growth.
I would suggest finding better books to read.
Did you read a book set in Hawaii this month? Tell us about it in the comments section.
Wishing you a new year full of health, happiness, and great books!