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Extended Audio Sample The Descendants Audiobook, by Kaui Hart Hemmings Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (8,019 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Kaui Hart Hemmings Narrator: Jonathan Davis Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: May 2007 ISBN: 9781482974140
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Kaui Hart Hemmings' first novel, The Descendants, was made into a movie of the same name, which won an Oscar in 2012. A touching family drama with humorous overtones, The Descendants is the story of Matt King, an attorney whose family owns a large amount of valuable property in Hawaii. Although Matt has been scrupulous about managing his own investments, his extended family has squandered their inheritance and decided to sell what's left. Before the deal can go through, Matt's wife Elizabeth has an accident which leaves her in a vegetative state. This serves as a wake-up call for Matt who has been an absent husband and father most of his life.

Matt's two daughters, Alex and Scottie, are having problems of their own, with Alex in drug rehab and Scottie acting out in an effort to get attention. Matt also discovers that while he's been busy with work, his wife has been having an affair with a man she may actually be in love with. Elizabeth needs to be taken off life support and Brian, her lover, needs to be told about her situation. Clueless as ever, Matt decides to takes his two daughters along to meet Brian and tell him what happened to Elizabeth.

Dealing with his children and learning to gain their trust once again is what drives Matt towards change and the realization that life is too short to be spent away from those you love. Hemmings does a great job mixing the elements of humor and drama; even though her tone is airy, she manages to delve into difficult issues. Just when she's fooled you into thinking you're reading a comedy, she brings you to the realization that you have actually been on an emotional roller coaster.

Kaui Hart Hemmings is a native of Hawaii and grew up in the luxe neighborhood where she sets her book. She can trace her ancestry back to a native Hawaiian who married a Protestant missionary who came to the islands from Boston in 1836. She went to Colorado College and Sarah Lawrence College and now lives in Hawaii with her husband and six-year-old. All three of them had bit parts in the movie version of her book which went on to receive the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Now a major motion picture starring George Clooney! Matthew King was once considered one of the most fortunate men in Hawaii. His missionary ancestors who came to the islands were financially and culturally progressive—one even married a Hawaiian princess, making Matt a royal descendant and one of the state’s largest landowners. But now his luck has changed. His two daughters are out of control—10-year-old Scottie has a smart-ass attitude and a desperate need for attention and 17-year-old Alex, a former model, is a recovering drug addict. His thrill-seeking and high-maintenance wife, Joanie, lies in a coma after a boat racing accident, and will soon be taken off life support. The King family can hardly picture life without their charismatic mother, but as they come to terms with this tragedy, their sadness is mixed with a sense of freedom that shames them—and spurs them into surprising actions. Download and start listening now!

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Audaciously comic…Hemmings channels the voice of her befuddled middle-aged hero with virtuosity, as he teeters between acerbic and sentimental, scoffing at himself even as he grasps for redemption.”

    New Yorker

  • “Hemmings is a determinedly unsentimental writer, and she manages her hazardous subject matter—all of it ripe for strenuous melodrama—in a dry, understated way, subverting her characters without reducing them utterly…Her comic sense is finely honed in this refreshingly wry debut novel.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “Gripping and funny…A brave and intelligent novel.”

    Sunday Telegraph (London)

  • “With beautiful and blunt prose, Hemmings explores the emotional terrain of grief, promising something far more fulfilling than paradise at its end.”

    San Francisco Chronicle

  • “Manages to be shockingly irreverent and funny while exerting that all-important emotional tug…The Kings prove to be a richly complicated as their Mexican housekeeper’s cooking…A well-plotted, unexpectedly twisting saga which…manages to avoid mawkishness and schmaltz.”

    Guardian (London)

  • “[A] sharply observed, frequently hilarious, and intermittently heartbreaking look at at well-meaning but confused father trying to hold together his unconventional family.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “Evincing a sublimely mature style and beguiling command of theme and setting, Hemmings’ virtuoso performance offers a piquantly tender and winsome comic portrait of a singular family’s revealing response to tragedy.”

    Booklist

  • “Hemmings pulls off a remarkable feat in making the Kings’ sense of loss all the more wrenching for being directed at a woman who was neither a good wife nor a good mother.”

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

  • A New York Times bestseller
  • A USA Today bestseller

Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Michelle | 2/11/2014

    " I went against the rules and saw the movie first and then decided to read the book. If you have the option, read the book first, books are always better. This book is poignant, and describes a set of circumstances that while random, could really happen to anyone. The story of a man trying to piece together his crumbling marriage in the wake of his wife's tragic accident and ensuing brain trauma, while trying to connect with an angry teenage daughter and a budding adolescent daughter is captivating in its honesty, engaging detail, and funny dialogue punctuated throughout. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Gillieporter | 2/5/2014

    " The stars say it all - ok. Nothing world shattering though. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Reid R | 1/10/2014

    " I try not to read a book after seeing the movie, but I'm glad I did... this book was good and I love the details that the movie wasn't able to go into. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jamie | 1/9/2014

    " I fell in love with all the King family. Really good book. I can't wait to watch the movie so I can say how much better the book was. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Barb | 1/5/2014

    " I really enjoyed this book even though I had already seen the movie. I actually cried during parts near the end! The characters were very well developed and real. Each of their struggles were so vivid. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sheri | 1/2/2014

    " I loved this book. The main character, Matt King, is a Hawaiian lawyer, descended from a line going back to a Hawaiian princess and a haole (i.e., European). That lineage entitles him and his relatives to a vast amount of plantation land that is now finally on the block for sale. Matt has the largest share & his decision on which buyer's offer to accept will ultimately control disposition of the property. This is all public news, reported on regularly in the papers, so everyone on the islands knows his situation & has their own viewpoints about it. While this is all going on, Matt is having to deal with his comatose wife Joanie, who has been injured in a boating accident, & is essentially brain dead, and his two daughters, preteen Scottie and teen Alex. Both kids pose serious parenting issues, especially for a dad who's been leaving the parenting to his wife since the girls were born. To top it all off, after Joanie's injury, he discovers some evidence that she may have been having an affair. Way too much for any one person to handle well, and Matt is no super-human. The author tells this entire story from Matt's perspective. Heart-rending and funny. I highly recommend this book. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Nathan | 12/22/2013

    " Great story about coming to grips with family roles and understanding values. This book hits me in a personal way. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 J | 12/18/2013

    " Enjoyable read about a family coming to terms with the possible death of the mother. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lacy | 12/12/2013

    " Picturing George Clooney as I read this almost made me give it five stars. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Julie | 12/11/2013

    " I had started the book and then rented the movie...watched it. The book of course was much better. I think the screenplay for the film could have been much better...and would have explained much more if they had followed the book more closely. The characters in the film needed more developing. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Marinda | 12/5/2013

    " Another great book. Very real, and an easy read. It didn't hurt that I could picture Clooney as the narrator. (have not seen the movie.) "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Dean Johnston | 10/2/2013

    " Great book. She has a very concise way of writing but is very perceptive about people, dialogue and mannerisms. Looking forward to seeing the movie now. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sheila | 7/1/2013

    " I think I actually liked the movie more than the book! That rarely happens for me. I did like the struggle of a man who loses his wife and finds out a shocking truth about her and then we see him working through it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Carey Shea | 1/12/2013

    " I liked this book. Very touching. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 EJ Raymond | 12/25/2012

    " It made me wondered why, how, what, and who. It lead me to finish the book which was very enjoyable to read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Linda Cummings | 9/21/2012

    " A poignant story full of truth, made more present in my mind by my recent trip to Hawaii - it made it easier to picture the settings. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jean Brown | 8/19/2012

    " 4 stars..Kindle book. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Tammy | 7/5/2012

    " I really liked this book. It is about relationships and dying. It was about the relationship between a husband and wife, and between daughters and their dad. I thought he was a little dense but see that it may just be the difference between men and women. I enjoyed the book and would recommend it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Tanya | 4/3/2012

    " This was a good book. I haven't seen the movie yet, but I could see how it would transfer to screen play easily, although I'm not sure how they would have gotten his internal struggles and dialogue to the audience. It was a heart wrenching topic, but it never made me cry, of which I'm thankful. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Liz Christensen | 5/5/2011

    " I began reading without any expectations. I really enjoyed the book and found that I either loved or hated the characters. This is very well-written. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Lisa Dinsmore | 3/31/2011

    " Very easy read, but funny & touching. Really hard to not picture George Clooney as the main character. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Tessa | 3/12/2011

    " Fantastic read, set on the islands. Love the protagonist's voice and impressed a woman wrote it so well. Can't wait to see what's next from Kaui Hart Hemmings. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Gumby | 11/22/2010

    " Easy read about a difficult situation. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Marian | 10/12/2010

    " Straightforward, bluntly honest & raucously-funny penned fiction piece by local Hawaii author. Hope George Clooney had fun making the film of it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Maida | 7/24/2010

    " It's a little schmaltzier than I usually like, but I did enjoy reading it. Will make a real tear-jerker of a movie. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sherrianne | 7/23/2010

    " Absolutely breathtaking! I could not put this book down. It was definitely a juicy page turner. If you cannot appreciate the life of living in Hawaii then this may not be a book for you. I hope more local authors come out with books like this. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Tim | 6/30/2010

    " A little touchy feely at times, but I really liked it. Some nice twists and turns and the characters are wonderful. Loved reading about Hawaii, too, and actually recognized a few places from my trip there a couple years ago. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Rebecca | 4/27/2010

    " Can't wait to read more by this author. "

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About the Author
Author Kaui Hart Hemmings

Kaui Hart Hemmings, American novelist, has degrees from Colorado College and Sarah Lawrence, and she was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. Her first novel, The Descendants, has been published in twenty-two other countries and is now an Oscar-winning film directed by Alexander Payne and starring George Clooney.

About the Narrator

Jonathan Davis has received widespread critical acclaim for his narration in a variety of genres. He has won the prestigious Audie Award for Best Narration in 2009, 2011, and 2012, as well as being a finalist for an Audie in 2007, 2013, and three times in 2014. He has also garnered accolades from Publishers Weekly, USA Today, and AudioFile magazine and has earned more than a dozen AudioFile Earphones Awards.