Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Monday, April 30, 2007

The Descendants inherit humor and heartbreak

Matthew King has two major decisions to make in about the same amount of time;whom to sell the vast amount of Hawaiian land he and his relatives are the current inheritors of,and who should he invite to the bedside of his comatose wife,Joanie,who is about to be taken off of life support. Joanie's living will demands that she not recieve any artifical means of medical assistance if she winds up in a vegatative state and her recent boating accident has done just that.

Matt has never been a Ward Cleaver kind of dad,or husband. He and Joanie just sort of went their own way in both their marriage and family matters,with Joanie being at the helm. In some ways,Matt thought their life was fine but trying to connect with his daughters,ten year old Scottie and seventeen year old Alex,proves that theory wrong. Scottie is sweet but rambunctious,getting herself into accidents like having a group of man o'wars sting her at the beach so that she has an exciting story to tell her mom. Alex is currently weaning off of drugs at a local boarding school and is still angry with her mother,over an argument that Matt never really knew what the root of the matter was.

Turns out the fight was about him-Alex found out her mom was dating a local realtor,Brian Speer,and may have been considering leaving Matt for him. While going around the islands to inform friends and family of Joanie's last days,Matt decides to find Brian and give him a chance to say goodbye,as well as discover more about the affair. Matt takes both of his daughters with him on this journey,along with Sid,a "non-boyfriend" of Alex's who she claims that she needs around to help her keep calm.

You wouldn't think that this story has any laughs in it,but believe me,it does. There's plenty of laugh out loud moments(particularly in the fights between Scottie and Alex) and off beat observations that keep the plot from getting too maudlin. Matt's coming to terms with how his marriage truly was,why Joanie did what she did and that he has to step up and be a real dad for his girls,is a thoughtful and honest look at a man having to figure out what the rest of his,and his children's,life will be like without his wife in it. In many ways,this book reminded me of the movie Little Miss Sunshine,with it's dysfunctional family follies that do not lessen the bonds of love between them.

This is a first novel by Hemmings,who has had several short stories published and a collection of her own ,House of Thieves. We're getting a great crop of debut authors this year,and Kaui Hart Hemmings is certainly one of the best of the bunch. Her down to earth style and witty tone make this tale of family heartbreak touching and truimphant. She doesn't throw in cheap laughs to lighten the mood,rather her humor comes from the all too recognizable attitudes and personalities of characters who you either have in your own family or are in your circle of friends and neighbors.

The Descendants will be out in stores by May 15,and if you would like to know more about it or the author,please click the title link above to check out Kaui Hart Hemmings' official website. This is one inheritance that you'll truly treasure.

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