By: Tim Johnston
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Publication Date: 01/06/2015
My Rating: 5 Stars +
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.
I am utterly speechless! DESCENT has to be made into a movie, and I want a front row seat. Tim Johnston delivers an extraordinary "work of art" narrated by an award-winning performance of Xe Sands and R.C. Bray. One of the best books of the year, and assured to win numerous awards. Where to begin? Grant and Angela are making their way to the Rockies, for a last family vacation, to Colorado and the great outdoors, before eighteen year old Caitland, an avid runner goes off to college (track scholarship), along with younger brother Sean. While mom and dad are at the motel having sex, the brother/sister take off to the hills on their adventure. However, when a tragic accident occurs; Sean is hit by a car while on his bike; with no cell phone reception, Caitland is frantic as her brother needs help. They find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. When a stranger comes along and agrees to take her down the mountain in order to call her parents and seek help; a family’s nightmare begins and none of their lives will ever be the same.This is one sick twisted guy. An emotional and intense journey, as slowly each member of the family falls apart, one by one. Each blames the other, feels guilt, and unable to console one another. There are emotional wounds even from the past, prior to the tragedy. When no clues turn up, or a body, Grant thinks Angela needs to return home to Wisconsin. She has depression problems and withdraws. Grant stays in Colorado, helping another older man (this story is quite humorous), at times. Sean wants to escape and takes off in his dad’s truck and crosses the country with one problem after another. (this guy cannot catch a break). Sean is fearless and wants to help everyone, since he cannot help his sister. Finally, Grant bails his son out of jail, and the two remain in Colorado as they continue their search. As the days on the mountain become years, a tale of survival, family bonds, courage, love, choices, and an experience which will change them forever. This is not your ordinary novel of a typical kidnapping or abduction. It is so much more. We do not hear much from Caitland and less of the mother back in Wisconsin; however, the novel takes many twists and turns into the lives of a family in Colorado and the powerful connection which will made readers cry and laugh at the same time, for an emotional journey. (Emmett, Billy, Sheriff connection) Captivating! Johnston is a gifted and creative writer who weaves a suspense psycho-crime thriller which crosses many genres. Not only is this an intense harrowing mystery thriller which keeps you on the edge of your seat, hanging on every word; it is an exploration into human dynamics, the beautiful literary prose, and the many metaphors . . .Spellbinding. Completely blown away by the writing, as difficult to put into words. I am reminded of a mix of rough and tough Clint Eastwood, a twisted and evil mind of Anthony Hopkins, yet poetic and elegant at the same time with flawed characters, pulling you into the heartfelt, strong bond of family as they make their broken way back to one another. And best of all, Johnston pulls this off in one riveting poignant novel. Reminiscent of Charles Martin, Ron Rash, John Hart, Allen Eskens, T. Greenwood, and Catherine Ryan Hyde with the outdoor mountain setting, small town characters, and the deep human emotional dynamics . . so many elements. Guys will devour this one, as well as the gals-from rough and rugged suspense, to deeply moving, emotional, and intense. My recommendation: Start reading this today, and set aside the time, as you will not be able to stop!
Thanks to Algonquin Books and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
About the Author
Tim Johnston is the author of the novel
Descent, the story collection Irish Girl, and the Young Adult novel Never So Green. Published in 2009, the stories of Irish Girl won an O. Henry Prize, the New Letters Award for Writers, and the Gival Press Short Story Award, while the collection itself won the 2009 Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Short Fiction. In 2005 the title story, “Irish Girl,” was included in the
Read the Publishers Weekly profile on Tim here.