Summary and book reviews of Descent by Tim Johnston

Descent

by Tim Johnston

Descent by Tim Johnston X
Descent by Tim Johnston
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2015, 384 pages
    Paperback:
    Dec 2015, 400 pages

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Book Summary

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. 

Excerpt
Descent

The phone in his hand was ringing. For how long? He read the screen with illogical dread.

"It's Sean," he said, and his wife said nothing.

*

They'd left the aspens and stepped into a high, intense sunlight, their shadows thrown back on the blacktop. The morning had burned away. The air was sere and smelled of weeping sap and of the brown, desiccated needles. They'd unfolded the map and tried to get their bearings. In a moment, and for the first time that day, they heard an engine, and then a gaining thumpbeat of music, and above them at the curve there banked into view a truck, or a jeep, or something in-between, some mountain breed they didn't know, and it was coming and Caitlin said, "Get over here," and Sean crabwalked himself and the bike into the scrubgrowth and wildflowers while the strange vehicle, all sunlight and bass, veered wide of them. In the window was a face, a man's jaw, yellow lenses fixing on them for a long moment before the jeep-thing passed ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Every once in a rare while a book is written that fulfills every requirement a reader is looking for. Tim Johnston has mastered that in Descent.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers).

Full Review (879 words).

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Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews

Neither Grant nor Sean - Angela barely registers for the reader - makes for a compelling lead character, both laconic to the point of annoyance, and while Caitlin's ordeal is chilling, it's not enough to buoy this overwritten yet occasionally poignant tale.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Combining domestic drama with wilderness adventure, Johnston has created a hybrid novel that is as emotionally satisfying as it is viscerally exciting.

Author Blurb Lisa Unger, author of In the Blood
You'll be in Johnston's unrelenting narrative grip until the final page, and his story will stay with you long after it's done. A truly captivating read.

Author Blurb Ben Winters, author of World of Trouble: The Last Policeman
Tim Johnston's achievement with Descent is to take the most sensationalistic of topics - Child abducted! Every parent's worst nightmare! - and use it to tell a story so beautiful, so grounded, and so graceful.

Author Blurb Jennifer McMahon, author of The Winter People
Tim Johnston has crafted a mesmerizing, beautifully written thriller that will engulf you like a snow storm in the Rockies. The grief and confusion of this family undone by loss feels absolutely, heartbreakingly real; the mystery of what has become of Caitlin will keep you up all night, turning pages frantically right through the spellbinding conclusion.

Author Blurb Alice LaPlante, author of A Circle of Wives
Tim Johnston knows secrets about families - about mothers and daughters, fathers and sons - and knows how to render them on the page with heartbreaking beauty and lyricism.

Author Blurb Jonathan Evison, author of The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving
Easily one of the best literary thrillers I've ever read. Descent has it all: heart-pounding suspense, masterful plotting, great characters, superb writing, and an ending that will leave you gasping for air.

Author Blurb Caroline Leavitt, author of Is This Tomorrow and Pictures of You
Like a punch to the heart, Johnston's darkly addictive story about loss, hope and all the ways we struggle to survive, stuns you in a way you can't possibly forget.

Author Blurb Haven Kimmel, author of A Girl Named Zippy and Iodine
Tim Johnston has managed a rare feat: a poignant, heartbreaking story that picks the reader up by the neck and never lets go.

Author Blurb Mary Roach, author of Gulp
Descent is the best novel I've read in a long time. Unlike most books that fall into the category of Page Turner, this one also falls in the category of Writing So Good You Can't Even Believe It.

Author Blurb Susan Isaacs, author of Goldberg Variations
Tim Johnston has done a great job not just in creating his characters, but creating the character of the Courtland family. If you enjoy vivid writing, intelligent plots, and gnawing your knuckles, you will love Descent.

Reader Reviews

CAC

could not put it down
The reader feels the pain of each family member. I found myself holding my breath. Loved this book!

Cindy C. (Withee, WI)

Great read!
I read this book in one day because I just needed to know how it ended. And I believe there could be a sequel in there too. The book tells the story of the members of the Courtland family and what happens when their 18 year old daughter ...   Read More

Linda J. (Ballwin, MO)

Descent by Tim Johnston
Those looking for a legitimate page turner need to look no further than "Descent," a novel with a "ripped from the headlines" feel. The Courtland family goes to the Colorado Rockies for a vacation. One morning, their daughter, Caitlin, takes her ...   Read More

Sherrie R. (Fort Worth, TX)

What a wild ride!
Since I love alpine hiking and wanted to read this story about a young girl and her brother who go for a morning run up the mountains one day. Every time I opened this book, I was immediately swept into a haunting world of dark thick forest high in ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Tim Johnston - A Carpenter Who Builds Houses and Stories

Tim JohnstonIn 2007, Tim Johnston's father asked him if he would go to his new house in the Rockies and do the finish work. Johnston made his living as a carpenter at the time, and since 2006 his father had been asking him to do the job. Johnston wasn't writing at the time; he was contemplating, instead, that he might never write again, and so he finally agreed to his father's request. It was in the midst of painting the many rooms of the vast house, wall by wall, that a family popped into his consciousness. As Johnston said – and as many writers have also stated – "If you get a great idea for a story, try like hell to forget it, and if you can't, then go ahead and start writing."

DescentHe couldn't. The family, who would later become the ...

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