Publisher: Random House
Publishing Date: May 2007
All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them. – Galileo Galilei.
Matthew King’ life is turned upside down and inside out after his wife Joanie lands in a coma following a boating accident. The repercussions of this incident led Matt on a journey of self-discovery. A journey wherein he discovers the truth about his life, his family and also that his wife had a lover.
Matthew King is the last direct descendant of a royal lineage, that of a Hawaiian princess, making his the biggest stake-owner, in a legacy handed down through the generations. He however doesn’t want to do much in regards to this. In trying to create a legacy of his own so that he may not have to live in the shadow of the past Matt unwittingly sets into action the events which he discovers after his wife’ condition is declared irreversible by the doctors. Learning that he may have to take his wife off of life support as per her living will, Matt tries to organize a farewell for his wife as per which all those people who mattered to her are given a chance at a farewell while they still have one which also includes the man she was cheating on him with.
In midst of all of this Matt has to handle the upcoming sale of the estate which has been running into debts since none of the successors do anything to take care of it while most spend their time only reaping benefits of it. If this wasn’t enough for him he has his two daughters who despite his own flesh and blood, couldn’t be more stranger to him, 17-year-old Alexandra aka Alex and 10-year-old Scottie – who are a challenge in their own right to him. Added to the mix is Alex’ friend Sid who smokes pot, drinks and has a bucket-load of his own issues.
While juggling all these balls that almost drive him out of his mind Matt finds a piece of paper which makes him doubt his wife’ fidelity, a doubt which is confirmed by his elder daughter. Matt learns not only of Joanie’ betrayal to him in the form of an affair, but also that she would have left him high and dry post the deal which she wanted him to cut to a Realtor who happens to be the Brother in law of the man she was having an affair with. But most of all it is the truth that Matt learns – that he should have been a better father, a better husband, friend and a lover to his wife.
Matt isn’t a bad guy but he could have been and should have been more attentive to the needs of his family. A family which was disintegrating in front of his own eyes while he was too busy with his work to notice. A wife who started an affair, a teenager who disgusted with her mother and irked with her father took up drugs and the youngest daughter who so desperately craves attention, she is willing to take desperate measures if it means she gets noticed.
“I’m sorry,” I say. “I didn’t give you everything you wanted. I wasn’t everything you wanted. You were everything I wanted.”
In The Descendants author Kaui Hart Hemmings, paints the picture of a family which you realize could be the story of someone you know or perhaps even yourself. The characters of Matt, Alex, Scottie, Sid and even the comatose yet the omnipresent Joanie feel real and you somehow cant help but find how each character in his/her way is flawed and yet none can be perhaps faulted for their actions. Perhaps Joanie should have communicated with her husband better before it was too late, perhaps Matt should have seen the signs of the destruction his family was headed for. Each character is perhaps guilty of some mistake they commit and each character at the end of the day is deeply and utterly as human as can be.