The Hawaiian author Kaui Hart Hemmings published her debut novel on November 18, 2011, which became an instant bestseller, with the story adopted into a motion-picture starring George Clooney and Alexander Payne. The Descendants is an expansion of her short story called The Minor Wars, which was indeed published for the first time in StoryQuarterly.
The story revolves around the life of the land-rich King family, where attorney Matthew King, the father of two children – 17-year old Alexandra and 10-year old Scottie, is the descendant of the Hawaiin royalty and the primary inheritor of the family land trust. With the trust under enormous debt and the price of land shooting up with the rise in demand for land in Hawaii, he is lost amidst a cluster of random thoughts concerning the future of his inherited wealth. Matt's wife Joanie, having been betrayed to catastrophe by her own thrill-seeking state of mind is on a coma since the boat-racing accident, and now she's about to be taken off life support as the doctors foresee her end.
As Matt is busy designing the family's future plans, his "daughter less, model more" Alexandra chooses to live her own life, even under her father's eyes, as she comes home one evening along with Sid, one of her friends from her previous school. In the meanwhile, Scottie continues to play the role of a miscast amongst the family that makes things complicated for Matt to cope up with. Soon, Matt stumbles upon a bitter truth that he chooses not to evade; he comes to know about his wife Joanie's affair with someone, who needs to be informed of his secret lover's deteriorating stage. Shuddered by the flow of this new change, Matt turns towards his interiors as he chooses to nurture his internal jury into guiding him through this web of a situation.
The Descendants brings into light the power of insight and introspection during turbulent times, which often instigates one to gather what's fallen apart and assemble the pieces together only to rediscover the true essence of life. Matt is the main character, and he exhibits the qualities of a responsible father cum husband whose inner being is about to be awakened in the midst of a paradoxical cycle, in order to guide its skin towards the only source of light. Hemmings delivers a noteworthy fiction, the essence of which speaks the subtler aspects of the human experience such as forgiveness, empathy, love, bonding, choices, preferences, sacrifice, and the ability of a responsible family member to confront his demons and channelize its noises into inner voices that serve only to project glimpses of the real human design.
The story is exceptionally well-structured with the potential twists and surprises systematically introduced at the most appropriate moments. Every moment in life is a remarkable episode, a significant phase that holds the true purpose of its occurrence embedded deep within its roots, which remain oblivious to the one experiencing/expressing the happening only for a short period of time. Optimized narration, bearing the true elements of art and literature, with evidently interconnected subplots, makes this book a real-time journey through its characters' interpretation of their roles in the happening.