16 February 2012

Thursday Tea: The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings

The Book: You may have heard of Kaui Hart Hemmings's The Descendants because it's now a major motion picture staring none other than George Clooney. But before the movie, came the book.

Matthew King, lawyer, husband, and father is a good guy, who tries to do the right thing. Although he's a descendant of Hawaiian royalty and controls or has access to quite a bit of money, he tries to live off of what he earns, despite his wife's complaints.

The women in his family, however, seem to have gone wild. His wife, Joanie, takes risks and craves adventure; his older daughter, Alex, has experimented with drugs and alcohol; and his younger daughter, Scottie, wants to grow up all at once. When a boating accident puts Joanie in a deep coma, Matt must confront all his roles and face some hard truths.

The Descendants is a novel that sneaks up on you. Although you're sure you know how the major plot lines will play out, that doesn't matter. The character studies, Hemmings's depiction of family and family dynamics, and Hawaii itself all draw you in and wrap around your brain. Matt King goes from relatively carefree to single parent of difficult daughters in a matter of minutes. In addition, he learns that his wife had a secret, leaving him to pick up the pieces. Life has imploded for the girls as well, and each has had a conflicted relationship with her mother and is left wondering how to make things right.

I saw the movie and then listened to the unabridged audiobook (AudioGo 9 hr, 12 min) read by Jonathan Davis. The movie followed the book very closely and differed only in inconsequential details. What I found particularly interesting is that George Clooney and Jonathan Davis had eerily similar takes on the character of Matt King. Although the two men do not really sound alike, it was amazing how nicely their voices meshed. I attribute this to how clearly and skillfully Hemmings developed her main character; there really is only one way to play Matt.

Even if you've seen the movie, I recommend reading the book. I also recommend The Descendants for book clubs. Topics for discussion include families, inheritances, infidelity, friendships, parenting, death and dying, and responsibility.

The Tea: Despite the lack of snow and relatively mild winter temperatures for my area of the world, I've been welcoming my afternoon tea breaks. This week, I turned to a tea I haven't had in a while: Harney & Sons' Cranberry Autumn. Here's how the company describes it: "Ideally sweet and tart, this black tea blended with cranberry and orange flavors reflects the crisp days and colorful leaves of Autumn. A full-bodied brew, exceptionally smooth and flavorful that pairs well with festive holiday meals." The tea has just a hint of the fruits and makes a warming, comforting drink.

The Assessment: Matt King and his daughters are not brewing up a cup of tea in the afternoon, I promise you that. Fancy coffee, shaved ice, beer, or wine is more of the King family style. If any of them were to go for tea, it'd likely be something more traditionally Chinese or Japanese. So Cranberry Autumn and The Descendants is a total miss. That's okay, I like my cuppa anyway.

What About You? Here's where I ask you what you're drinking this week (tea, coffee, wine?). And don't forget to tell me what you're reading.

Buy The Descendants at an Indie, Powell's, Book Depository, or a bookstore near you. These links lead to affiliate programs.
Thursday Tea was the brainchild of Anastasia at Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog.
Published by Random House Trade Paperbacks 2011
ISBN-13: 9780812982954
Source: Audio: Review (see review policy)
Rating: B+
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)
FTC: I buy all teas myself, I am not a tea reviewer.


Serena 2/16/12, 7:01 AM  

Since the movie, I've been interested in the book, though I have yet to read or watch either. I have been drinking a bit too much coffee this week I think.

Serena 2/16/12, 7:02 AM  

oh, as for reading, just finished Dorian Gray and will be starting MJ Rose's Book of Fragrances

Alena 2/16/12, 7:47 AM  

I read a hard-cover edition and agree with your assessment that the book "sneaks up on you." I liked it more than I thought I would and was genuinely moved by this family.

Now reading TOLSTOY AND THE PURPLE CHAIR, a memoir by a woman who devotes a year to reading and writing about one book each day. A dream for me.

Daryl 2/16/12, 8:38 AM  

I have this on the iPhone/iPad Nook and I will get to it but not til I am done with Dance of Dragons .. and I am reading that slowly to make it last ... and this morning I had a cuppa Republic of Tea's Ginger Peach Rooibus tea ..

caite 2/16/12, 9:20 AM  

Usually I would go for the book over a movie but one word...Clooney.

Ellen 2/16/12, 9:54 AM  

I didn't realize that this was a book until a few weeks after I saw the movie. The reviews I read on goodreads were pretty middling, but sounds like this book is still worth reading. I'm not in the mood to watch the film again, but I would like to revisit the story - so, yet another book goes on my tbr read. Great review!

grammajudyb 2/16/12, 11:02 AM  

Right now I am drinking coffee, but will change to tea this afternoon. Gypsy Embrace a White August Tea blend, purchased when we were in Arizona for the holidays. It's a blend of Earl Grey and something else?? Like it a lot. Just finished Tuesdays with Morrie and will start The Island of Lost Girls today.

bermudaonion 2/16/12, 11:40 AM  

I saw the movie with a friend who'd read the book and she said the movie stayed true to the book. I really want to read it now because I thought the movie was fabulous.

I'm drinking mandarin orange spice tea and reading The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown.

Amy 2/16/12, 12:05 PM  

Drinking Revolution's English Breakfast and reading Atwood's Year of the Flood this morning.

Sandy Nawrot 2/16/12, 12:52 PM  

Jonathan Davis, huh? He is just nearly as scrumptious as Clooney, so no wonder they meshed! Going to have to see if the library carries this one.

Barbara 2/16/12, 2:27 PM  

Note to Alena. I'm glad to see someone else is appreciating Tolstoy and the Purple Chair. I loved it.

I'm in the midst of a book about one of the Ziegfield Follies girls, Lillian Lorraine. Fascinating look at 1920s NYC and theater history. I'm drinking plain old Lipton with a dash of honey for my throat since I'm recovering from a cold.

Zibilee 2/16/12, 2:37 PM  

I didn't know that this was a book as well as a movie, and I would love a chance to experience both of them. It sounds as if the story is very complex and moving.

I also like your choice of teas. Cranberry is a favorite, and I haven't found a tea that uses it in a long time.

Brenda 2/16/12, 3:01 PM  

Coffee, my afternoon cup after work before I start on what ever needs to be done at home. I am reading As the Pig Turns by M.C. Beaton, an Agatha Raisin Mystery. I think this is the newest but it is the first I have read. I am not sure if I have liked it enough to read any of the 21 books or not.

Sim Carter 2/16/12, 5:04 PM  

I love your "what tea are you drinking?" What a fabulous frame for you blog!
I read the book before I saw the movie but KNOWING George Clooney was in it so I had him in my head as Matt King all along.
I adored both the book and the movie. I was moved by both as well and am looking forward to seeing what Kaui Hart Hemmings writes next!

Marg 2/16/12, 6:43 PM  

I saw the movie a couple of days after my grandfather days and the next day after a family member was involved in a very serious accident. We had therefore spent a lot of time sitting around in hospital or waiting to here, so this was probably the wrong movie to go and see at that time.

Unknown 2/16/12, 9:03 PM  

Love it when a book follows the movie. I've been meaning to see this, now I'll have to read it too!
My favourite tea at the moment is called Sir John - lightly smoked black tea with jasmine, lemon peel and rose flowers. Either that or a lovely traditional Russian Caravan.

Anonymous,  2/17/12, 4:50 AM  

I haven't heard of the book nor the movie, but it sounds interesting. One for the Wishlist. Thanks!

Leslie (Under My Apple Tree) 2/17/12, 1:53 PM  

I haven't seen the movie yet. I wanted to read the book first but if the movie follows the book I'm probably ok in either order!

Yesterday I was drinking Black Peach Tea but I think I'm going back to Spiced Chai today. As for books I'm still savoring The Good American and finding it difficult to move on to the next audiobook.

Libby 2/17/12, 3:05 PM  

I just clicked through and this tea looks AMAZING... May have to spring for it...

Kailana 2/17/12, 5:25 PM  

I have been hearing lots and lots about the movie, but only recently heard anything about the book. Since I don't think I will see the movie any time soon I should read the book in the meantime.

Jenners 2/17/12, 5:32 PM  

I saw the movie now I totally want to read the book. IT sounds like it both are good, which so rarely happens.

Lizzy 2/24/12, 8:18 AM  

I loved your review! very well written, just like the book, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I heard the review this week on The book report, you will enjoy it, go check it out here - http://bookreportradio.com

StarCam Jillian 2/24/12, 1:16 PM  

I think it's seriously awesome how "human" Kaui seems. Seeing her in interviews and everything, she just appears to be so grateful for such an incredible opportunity and almost startled by her own accomplishments! I saw this interview the other day and thought it was adorable that she couldn't even recall the designer she was wearing at the Writer's Guild Awards. America could learn a lot more from a woman like this as opposed to the majority of people we see on Reality TV!


Julie Goucher 2/25/12, 2:46 PM  

I have seen the film advertised. Not sure if it has been released here in the UK, but did not realise there was a book. Certainly the film advert looks good. Another book added to the wish list!

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