Wednesday, April 15, 2015
Descent by Tim Johnston
I read the last 100 pages of Descent in a flurry, staying up to 1:00 am and then going back and re-reading the last 10 pages just to make sure I didn't miss anything.
It's that good.
The problem is, I've got a two year old that has the sleeping habits of a wolverine on Red Bull, which means I'm running on three hours of sleep and about a gallon of coffee this morning as I write this.
Speaking of being a father, Descent represents a parent's worst nightmare. There is nothing more terrifying than the thought of someone kidnapping your child, it's the kind of stuff that can drive you insane just by thinking about it. That's why I make sure both of my children are always armed with semi-automatic weapons. Joking.
You might say that the kidnapping theme is one that has been done again and again, and you'd be right. However, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that there's a good chance you haven't read one written as powerful as this. This is no run of the mill "literary thriller." The writing in this story is about as good as it gets.
Caitlin Courtland is the star of her high school track team. On the verge of entering college, she goes on vacation to Colorado with her family. One morning, her and her brother, 15-year old Sean, go on a run by themselves in the mountains.
That's when tragedy strikes. Sean is hit by a car, his leg is shattered and he's dipping in and out of consciousness. The driver suggests that Sean shouldn't be moved out of fear of injuring him further.
Since Caitlin can't get a signal on her cell phone, the man kindly offers to drive her down the mountain so she can call 9-11.
Caitlin agrees, climbs into the car with the man, and disappears.
What follows is a three-year examination of how Caitlin's disappearance tears the family apart. The father turns to booze, his relationship with his wife disintegrates and Sean, the son, becomes full of wanderlust and grief.
As surprising and bold as the story is, it's the writing that will keep your fingers clenched to the pages, here's a random example:
"...he would take his skull in his hands and clench his teeth until he felt the roots giving way and the world would pitch and he would groan like some aggrieved beast and believe he would retch up his guts, organs and entrails and heart and all, all of it wet and gray and steaming at his feet and go ahead, he would say into this blackness, go ahead god damn you.”
I don't want to give away any more of the story, once its got its talons in your guts it won't let go. It is beautifully written story and deserves as wide an audience as possible.