The stunning vistas of the Rocky Mountains reveal a dark and deadly side in this brilliantly conceived thriller about family ties and the fight for survival.
Descent, the story of a family undone by the disappearance of a daughter who went out for a morning run and didn’t come back, is stunning in its emotional impact--a compulsively readable page-turner with a strong literary sensibility.
The girl’s vanishing--on a sunny, late-summer vacation morning--all the more devastating for its mystery, is the beginning of the family’s harrowing journey down increasingly divergent and solitary paths, until all that continues to bind them to each other are the questions they can never bring themselves to ask: At what point does a family stop searching? At what point does a girl stop fighting for her life?
Johnston captures every emotion, every terrifying thought, every moment of loneliness, from the perspectives of everyone in the family—as each in his or her own way assumes responsibility for their collective loss. And in the father we see the last flicker of hope as he pursues every angle and refuses to give up in his belief that his daughter is still alive. Ultimately he finds an answer, in a climax that is stunning in both its execution and its resolution.
This combination of a great story and beautiful writing brings to mind the works of Tim Gautreaux, Dennis Lehane, and Russell Banks.
In Johnston's sorrowful and suspenseful first adult novel, a family is forced to face its worst nightmare when one of its members goes missing. Caitlin Courtland, an 18-year-old runner about to enter college on a track scholarship, is vacationing with her family in the Rockies when she fails to come back from an early morning run. Over the course of the next two years, the family fractures as no sign of Caitlin is ever found. Grant Courtland, Caitlin's father, remains in the Rockies, while mother Angela tries to pick up the pieces back home in Wisconsin, where she eventually makes a failed attempt at suicide. Meanwhile, Caitlin's younger brother, Sean, drives aimlessly around the country, getting in and out of trouble. Although it begins as one more variation on Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones, a late-in-the-novel coincidence sends the narrative in a new direction and turns it into a survival story involving a character who, heretofore, has played a relatively minor part in the drama. Johnston (Irish Girl) has a poet's eye for the majestic and forbidding nature of the Rockies, and a sociologist's understanding of how people act under pressure. He also has a knack for creating characters that the reader will come to care about, no matter how flawed they are. Combining domestic drama with wilderness adventure, Johnston has created a hybrid novel that is as emotionally satisfying as it is viscerally exciting.
Customer ReviewsSee All
One of the most gripping, complex, heart wrenching novels I've ever read. I will remember this story for a long time.
Too much work
What's the point of being purposefully obfuscating in a novel? I made it through 150 pages before giving up. Give me some clue about the story line, some character to relate to, something (anything) to make me want to turn the page. I tried, I really did.
Work for it.
Trying to get to the actual story is a bit difficult due to the Author's love of run-on sentences, some over 100 words in length. This book took me several days to read which is most unusual for me. I wanted to get to the main storyline but had to wade thru all the extra word salads.