The Descendants

descendantsBehold, the March book club selection! Hilary (HAF) hosted our March meeting and chose The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings, best known to the modern world as the Hawaiian movie starring George Clooney for which he recently received an Academy Award nomination. As much as I hate when a book is re-released with the stupid movie cover, I didn't mind this one too much. Women of all ages love Clooney. Especially my mom.

A synopsis of the book via GoodReads:

Matthew King was once considered one of the most fortunate men in Hawaii. His missionary ancestors were financially and culturally progressive–one even married a Hawaiian princess, making Matt a royal descendant and one of the state’s largest landowners.

Now his luck has changed. His two daughters are out of control: Ten-year-old Scottie is a smart-ass with a desperate need for attention, and seventeen-year-old Alex, a former model, is a recovering drug addict. Matt’s charismatic, thrill-seeking, high-maintenance wife, Joanie, lies in a coma after a boat-racing accident and will soon be taken off life support.

Before honoring Joanie’s living will, Matt must gather her friends and family to say their final goodbyes, a difficult situation made worse by the sudden discovery that there is one person who hasn’t been told: the man with whom Joanie had been having an affair, quite possibly the one man she ever truly loved. Forced to examine what he owes not only to the living but to the dead, Matt takes to the road with his daughters to find his wife’s lover, a memorable journey that leads to both painful revelations and unforeseen humor and growth.

Book club gave The Descendants two thumbs up. The premise of the book is hardly commonplace: while a guy's wife is dying of traumatic brain injuries suffered in a boating accident, he learns from his recovering drug addict 17-year-old daughter that his wife was having an affair and planned to divorce him. It reminds me of most Nicholas Sparks novels.

At the outset, the King daughters seem pretty messed up. The 10-year-old, Scottie, engages in some nasty text message bullying and uses phrases that were meaner than many things I'd ever heard (this should scare any woman with young girls). The 17-year-old, Alex, seems more experienced than most 27-year-olds. From what you learn about the girls' mother Joanie (who, it should be noted, had no chance of defending herself), it's clear why the daughters are so attention starved. But what's admirable about The Descendants is the evolution of Matt King, a former absentee father and husband, who realizes his chance to change his family for the better despite the terrible circumstances. I can't remember the last time I've read a book that felt so honest - many times to the point of discomfort - and funny.

If you've ever been to Hawaii, you'll enjoy The Descendants with a special perspective. HCG is a huge fan of the Aloha State, and I welcome any opportunity to experience Hawaii even if it does involve a broken marriage, damaged children and a terminal medical condition. The scenery helps to balance out the dark subject matter.

HAF's March meeting was, like all meetings hosted by HAF, laid back, relaxed and wonderfully enjoyable. We dined on baked ziti and recounted how HAF, MR and I nearly died while exhausting ourselves running an American Girl doll charity fashion show. I won't go into it, but highlights include a nearly third trimester pregnant HAF going 12 hours without water, MR orchestrating an intense doll hair salon, and me being physically assaulted by a parent. The secret life of HCG.

More book club baby congrats are in order: members Karen and Christa are both pregnant with their first children, and they are due within two weeks of each other! As I've said before, there is no better place to learn everything you do and don't want to know about pregnancy and childbirth than book club.

Watch out: HCG is hosting book club in April, and Joe is hard at work on necessary improvements required to open our home to the exclusive book club membership. It's going to be awesome.