Cover image for Descent
Title:
Descent
Author:
Johnston, Tim, 1962-
Personal Author:
Edition:
First Edition.
Publication Information:
Chapel Hill : Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2015.
Physical Description:
374 pages ; 24 cm
Summary:
A girl vanishes "on a sunny, late-summer vacation morning" and thus begins a "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?"--
General Note:
"Published simultaneously in Canada by Thomas Allen & Son Limited"--Title page verso.
Language:
English
ISBN:
9781616203047
Format :
Book

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On Order

Summary

Summary

A Breakout NEW YORK TIMES Bestseller

A USA Today Bestseller

An Indie National Bestseller

"Outstanding . . . The days when you had to choose between a great story and a great piece of writing? Gone." -- Esquire

"The story unfolds brilliantly, always surprisingly . . . The magic of his prose equals the horror of Johnston's story; each somehow enhances the other . . . Read this astonishing novel." -- The Washington Post

"Tim Johnston's high-wire literary thriller . . . will leave you gasping." -- Vanity Fair

"A riveting literary thriller of the can't-stop-turning-the-page, stay-up-all-night variety." --Alice LaPlante, author of A Circle of Wives

The Rocky Mountains have cast their spell over the Courtlands, a young family from the plains taking a last summer vacation before their daughter begins college. For eighteen-year-old Caitlin, the mountains loom as the ultimate test of her runner's heart, while her parents hope that so much beauty, so much grandeur, will somehow repair a damaged marriage. But when Caitlin and her younger brother, Sean, go out for an early morning run and only Sean returns, the mountains become as terrifying as they are majestic, as suddenly this family find themselves living the kind of nightmare they've only read about in headlines or seen on TV.

As their world comes undone, the Courtlands are drawn into a vortex of dread and recrimination. Why weren't they more careful? What has happened to their daughter? Is she alive? Will they ever know? Caitlin's disappearance, 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 together are the questions they can never bring themselves to ask: At what point does a family stop searching? At what point will a girl stop fighting for her life?

Written with a precision that captures every emotion, every moment of fear, as each member of the family searches for answers, Descent is a perfectly crafted thriller that races like an avalanche toward its heart-pounding conclusion, and heralds the arrival of a master storyteller.


Author Notes

Tim Johnston was born in Iowa City. He attended and graduated from the University of Iowa and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He was the 2011 Jeny McKean Moore Writer -in Residence at the George Washington University. His stories have appeared in California Quarterly, Double Take, Best Life Magazine, The Iowa Review and Narrative Magazine.

Irish Girl won an O. Henry Prize, the New Letters Award for Writers. The collection won the 2009 Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Short Fiction. His other works include Two Years and Never So Green. In 2015 his title, Descent made The New York Times Best Seller List.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

In Johnston's sorrowful and suspenseful first adult novel, a family is forced to face its worst nightmare when one of its members goes missing. Caitlin Courtland, an 18-year-old runner about to enter college on a track scholarship, is vacationing with her family in the Rockies when she fails to come back from an early morning run. Over the course of the next two years, the family fractures as no sign of Caitlin is ever found. Grant Courtland, Caitlin's father, remains in the Rockies, while mother Angela tries to pick up the pieces back home in Wisconsin, where she eventually makes a failed attempt at suicide. Meanwhile, Caitlin's younger brother, Sean, drives aimlessly around the country, getting in and out of trouble. Although it begins as one more variation on Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones, a late-in-the-novel coincidence sends the narrative in a new direction and turns it into a survival story involving a character who, heretofore, has played a relatively minor part in the drama. Johnston (Irish Girl) has a poet's eye for the majestic and forbidding nature of the Rockies, and a sociologist's understanding of how people act under pressure. He also has a knack for creating characters that the reader will come to care about, no matter how flawed they are. Combining domestic drama with wilderness adventure, Johnston has created a hybrid novel that is as emotionally satisfying as it is viscerally exciting. (Jan.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Library Journal Review

Sean Courtland is knocked from his mountain bike and severely injured while accompanying his sister Caitlin on a conditioning run in the Rockies. Caitlin vanishes without a trace. While Sean recovers, their parents, Grant and Angela, run through their savings searching for Caitlin and also run out of patience with each other. Two years later, with Grant in Colorado still searching and Angela back home in Wisconsin, Sean borrows his father's truck and sets off on his own. Featuring some interesting supporting characters and tense situations, Johnston's (Irish Girl) abduction thriller provokingly explores the mysteries of life, death, manhood, sexual exploitation, fate, and family relationships. R.C. Bray and Xe Sands give the book an excellent reading. VERDICT This audio is highly recommended for adult mystery fiction collections.-Cliff Glaviano, formerly with Bowling Green State Univ. Libs., OH © Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

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 thump-beat 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 scrub growth 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 on and, reaching the crest of the road, dropped away, body and engine and music and all. They'd set off again then, and when they came around the bend there was another road, unpaved, intersecting the blacktop at an oblique angle like an X, and without hesitating and without consulting him, Caitlin simply took it. And although the road was unmarked, and although it appeared as though it would take them higher up rather than down, he said nothing. Later, he would think about that. He would remember the shrine of the woods. The graves. He would see the Virgin's face and her mutilated blessing and he would remember thinking they should pray before her just the same, like the right reverend said, just in case. Forty days was forty days. But Caitlin had already been on the path, moving toward the road. She was wearing a white sleeveless top, white shorts with the word "Badgers" bannered in cherry red across her bottom, pink and white Adidas, and for a moment, in that place, she had looked not like herself but like some blanched and passing spirit. A cold wanderer around whom the air chilled and the birds shuddered and the leaves of the aspens yellowed and fell. HE RAISED THE phone and said, "Hello, Sean," and a man's voice said, "Is this Mr. Courtland?" and Grant's head jerked as if struck. "Yes. Who is this?" At these words, the change in his body, Angela came around to see his face. He met her eyes and looked away, out the window. The man on the phone identified himself in some detail, but all Grant heard was the word sheriff. "What's happened?" he asked. "Where's Sean?" There was a pain in his forearm and he looked to see the white claw fastened there. He pried at it gently. "He's here at the medical center in Granby, Mr. Courtland," said the sheriff. "He's a tad banged up, but the doctor says he'll be fine. I found his wallet and this phone in his--" "What do you mean a tad--" He glanced at Angela and stopped himself. "What do you mean by that?" "I mean it looks like he got himself in some kind of accident up there on the mountain, Mr. Courtland. I ain't had a chance to talk to him yet, they doped him up pretty good for the . . . Well, you can talk to the doctor in a second here. But first--" "But he's all right," Grant said. "Oh, his leg's banged up pretty good. But he was wearing that helmet. He'll be all right. He had some good luck up there." "What do you mean?" "I mean he could of laid there a lot longer, but it happened some folks come by on their bikes." Grant's heart was hammering in his skull. He couldn't think--his son lying there, up there, on the mountain, hurt-- "Mr. Courtland," said the sheriff. "Where are you all at?" There was something in the man's tone. Grant shook his head. "What do you mean?" "Well, sir. We found your boy way up there on the mountain, on a rental bike. So I'm just wondering, sir, where you're at." "Caitlin," Angela said suddenly, and Grant's heart leapt and he said, "Yes. Let me speak to my daughter. Let me speak to Caitlin." "Your daughter . . . ?" said the other man, then was silent. In the silence was the sound of his breathing. The sound of him making an adjustment to his sheriff 's belt. The sound of a woman's voice paging unintelligibly down the empty hospital corridor. When he spoke again he sounded like some other man altogether. "Mr. Courtland," he said, and Grant stepped toward the window as though he would walk through it. He'd taken the representations of the mountains on the resort maps, with their colorful tracery of runs and trails and lifts, as the mountains themselves--less mountains than playgrounds fashioned into the shapes of mountains by men and money. Now he saw the things themselves, so green and massive, humped one upon the other like a heaving sea. Angela stopped him physically, her thumbs in his biceps. She raised on her toes that she might hear every word. "Mr. Courtland," said the sheriff. "Your son came in alone." Excerpted from Descent by Tim Johnston All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.