Thursday, March 26, 2015

Book Review: "Descent" by Tim Johnston

"Descent" by Tim Johnston
First published in 2015
375 pages
My rating: 4 out of 5
Image from Goodreads

Running is 18-year-old Caitlin Courtland's passion. She's heading to the University of Wisconsin on a track scholarship in the fall, and for a high school graduation gift she begged her parents for a trip to the Colorado Rockies to train in the challenging altitude.

But on that first morning in the Rockies, the unthinkable happens. Caitlin is running high up in the mountains with her little brother trailing behind her on a bike. And out of nowhere, a vehicle mows down her brother, sending him into a ditch and mutilating his knee. Caitlin gets into the truck with a man wearing yellow sunglasses -- and vanishes.

I expected "Descent" to be a fast-paced thriller told from Caitlin's -- or possibly a detective's -- perspective, but it was a completely different type of novel. The tale focused mostly on the effect Caitlin's disappearance had on her family -- her mother, who dulls the pain with pills; her father, who stays in Colorado for years, never giving up hope that his daughter is alive; and her guilt-ridden brother, who takes off in their father's truck and has a load of horribly depressing misadventures.

About halfway through the book, the author gradually begins to reveal Caitlin's fate. And the last 75 pages are definitely unputdownable. But the majority of "Descent" is a slow burn, with the plot centered mainly on Caitlin's father and brother. It's a dark, often gloomy novel, artfully written with the kind of complex wordsmithing that forces you to really focus and process every single sentence. It reminded me a lot of Smith Henderson's "Fourth of July Creek."

"Descent" deals with love, family, redemption, guilt, blame, vengeance and inner strength -- all pretty serious topics. It was a decent read -- but be warned that it might be a bit more heavy and depressing than the cover blurbs would lead you to believe.

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