I haven’t yet seen the movie based upon The Descendants but the Audiobook version narrated by Jonathan Davis clearly indicates why George Clooney played the protagonist Matthew King. Davis’ speaking mannerisms are similar to Clooney’s and as I listened I could almost picture Clooney doing that little forward yet sideways cock of his head with a raised eyebrow that he does so well.
Matt King, descended from a Hawaiian princess who had married a missionary, inherited the largest percentage of his royal family’s landholdings making him the largest landholder in the Hawaiian islands. He holds all the cards as his shareholding cousins await his decision as to whose bid package will be accepted–each proposes the development of pristine land into shopping malls, golf resorts, and exclusive subdivisions with million-dollar views, but Matt is dealing with much larger issues. With his risk-taking wife in a coma due to a boating accident, parenting is suddenly required of him to manage his teenage daughters, and he suspects his wife had been having an affair.
The narrative clips along at a fast pace as we join Matt on an interisland quest with troubled 10-year old Scottie who keeps acting out in a baffling way, beautiful 17-year old Alex who is furious with her dying mother, and an oddly charming character named Sid who becomes increasingly important to the story. Matt drags them along from Oahu to the Big Island and Kauai as he processes the realization that he’s suddenly a single parent, seeks information about his wife’s affair, notifies close friends and family about Joanie’s fate, and attempts to connect with his daughters. Meanwhile, he must decide what to do about the land, and his decision is tied to the tragic events in his family life.
A focused plot allows insightful dialogue to reveal relationship issues between the characters. I like and respect the character of Matt King a lot even though he owns up to some major flaws as a husband and father. His endearing journey of self-discovery promises to heal the rift between him and his daughters. The content does include profanity, sexuality, and drugs so it’s not a gentle read, realized when my kids were in the car listening to the CD! I read that the movie is rated R primarily for the language, drug and sexual references.
I found this to be an excellent audiobook even though I suspect that a few Hawaiian place names were mis-pronounced. The content accurately depicts many aspects of Hawaiian and Pacific island life that are familiar to me. Short chapters and engaging dialogue really kept me awake and I’m one of those people that uses recorded stories as a very effective sleep aid. I look forward to the critically acclaimed DVD for which I’m currently #38 of 69 on the waiting list at the library. I hope that the movie’s popularity will cause many viewers to read Kaui Hart Hemmings’ exciting book.