Matt King is your stereotypical overworked, absentee father until his beautiful wife’s boating accident leaves her in a coma and him in charge of the kids. You may not agree with King’s parenting decisions when his paternal instincts finally kick in, but by the end of The Descendants, you will forgive his missteps, because you will come to understand the man. (That’s called good character development in the literary world.)
The man, it turns out, comes with baggage. He is the descendent of Hawaiian royalty (is the last name a little too obvious?) and—with a slew of aunties and uncles and cousins—is among Hawaii’s largest landowners. It’s King’s job to decide for his extended family what to do with the land. Developers are clamoring for it, and the government wants back taxes.
In the midst of learning his wife’s coma is irreversible and discovering his in-laws hate him, King finds out his wife was having an affair at the time of her accident.
The Descendants is a book that starts off as awkward as a newborn colt taking its first steps. But it gallops to the finish a good three lengths ahead of its nearest competitor and that’s what makes it stick in your mind.
What author Kaui Hart Hemmings managed to do in her debut novel is present Hawaii in all its paradisiacal and real ways. She makes Hawaii accessible way to the rest of the world. You don’t just have to live in Hawaii, love Hawaii or have ever visited Hawaii to enjoy this book.
The other thing Hemmings managed to do with her book was catch the eye of Hollywood. Actor George Clooney happens to be in Hawaii right now filming the movie adaptation of Hemming’s book. It’s a literary Cinderella story. And Hemmings will be at the Hawaii Book & Music Festival today with the movie’s producer Jim Burke to talk about The Descendents. I’ll be there; will you?