Descent Book Review

Descent Book Review

Title: Descent
Author: Tim Johnston
Published: 2015, Algonquin Books
No. of Pages: 384
Cover Price: $25.95 Hardcover, $11.95 Kindle

Tim Johnston’s popular book, Descent tells the story of the Courtland family, who is on vacation in Colorado when one of their children is injured and the other disappears. Thankfully, most of us will never know how we would handle the uncertainty of a child gone missing, but that kind of thing is apt to break even a strong family apart, as each member deals with guilt, anger, etc.

Have you ever read a book that you really didn’t like, but had to keep reading to find out what happens at the end? This is one of those books. The characters aren’t particularly likeable: Grant Courtland, father and husband, has cheated on his wife with their close friend and neighbor; Angela Courtland, mother and wife, is unstable, to say the least; daughter Caitlin, who has been a star runner in her school, has disappeared during the family vacation when she and her little brother, Sean, went hiking and were hit by an SUV, the perpetrator manipulating Caitlin into going with him supposedly to call police and an ambulance.

The way that the book is written is surreal, and the dreamlike events can be confusing unless readers pay careful attention; it is not a fast read. The story is told in a similar way to Gone Girl in that each chapter deals with events happening to individual characters. Rather than a name on the heading of each chapter, the author adds no headings, and starts the chapters with “The boy,” or “She,” or “They,” and it takes a while for the reader to figure out who this chapter is about. This can also be a bit confusing. In addition, it seems none of the family really investigates the disappearance; rather Angela goes back home to Wisconsin and moves in with her aunt, Grant stays in Colorado and doesn’t do much of anything but take smoke breaks. Sean, too, is always lighting up, and getting into trouble; is it really possible for people in the real world to waste that much time smoking?

The book was most likely named Descent because the characters are trying to descend down the mountain, but it could also refer to the fact that the characters also descend into strange mental states, as would probably be the case for anyone losing a child, or possibly the hope that they can descend back to the state they were in before the disappearance. The novel is dark, and quite depressing. That is not to say that it is poorly written – the writing is impeccable; the surrealism and dark ambiance may be by design, and thriller/suspense readers who enjoy something different may enjoy this book.

This book was purchased with personal funds and no promotion of the book was solicited by the author or publisher.

This book may be purchased at Amazon:
Descent: A Novel, hardcover
Descent: A Novel, Kindle

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