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Debra Hamel is the mother of two preternaturally attractive girls and the author of a number of books about ancient Greece. She writes and blogs from her subterranean lair in North Haven, CT. Read more.


Books by Debra Hamel:

THE BATTLE OF ARGINUSAE :
VICTORY AT SEA AND ITS TRAGIC AFTERMATH IN THE FINAL YEARS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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KILLING ERATOSTHENES:
A TRUE CRIME STORY
FROM ANCIENT ATHENS
By Debra Hamel


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READING HERODOTUS:
A GUIDED TOUR THROUGH THE WILD BOARS, DANCING SUITORS, AND CRAZY TYRANTS OF THE HISTORY
By Debra Hamel


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paperback | hardcover (UK)

THE MUTILATION OF THE HERMS:
UNPACKING AN ANCIENT MYSTERY
By Debra Hamel


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TRYING NEAIRA:
THE TRUE STORY OF A COURTESAN'S SCANDALOUS LIFE IN ANCIENT GREECE
By Debra Hamel


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paperback | hardcover (UK)

SOCRATES AT WAR:
THE MILITARY HEROICS OF AN ICONIC INTELLECTUAL
By Debra Hamel


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ANCIENT GREEKS IN DRAG:
THE LIBERATION OF THEBES AND OTHER ACTS OF HEROIC TRANSVESTISM
By Debra Hamel


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IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY TWEET:
FIVE HUNDRED 1ST LINES IN 140 CHARACTERS OR LESS
By Debra Hamel


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PRISONERS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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Hemmings, Kaui Hart: The Descendants

  Amazon  

4.5 stars

Matthew King's wife Joanie is in a coma and not expected to survive. Matt thus finds himself suddenly thrust into the role of single parent to their two daughters, aged 10 and 17. One day that will mean the normal things--getting the girls up for school and taking them to dentists' appointments, the minutiae of parenting. But for now the situation is extreme. He needs to explain to them that the doctors are taking their mother off life support, and he has to walk them through the process of saying goodbye to her. He also finds himself confronting for the first time the ugly fact that both girls are completely out of control, juvenile delinquents or just shy of it. Meanwhile, Matt has responsibilities to other people: he has set himself the task of letting everyone else know what's happening to Joanie--their friends and family and, as he finds out, the man his wife has been having an affair with. Even he, Matt decides, has the right to say goodbye.

Given the subject matter of Kaui Hart Hemmings's The Descendants, you might think that reading it would be a painful exercise, like slowly pulling a bandage off an infected sore. The book does have its tear-jerking moments, but surprisingly few of them, considering. Joanie, as we discover, was seriously flawed, so our sadness over her death is diluted. Our ambivalence--ours and Hemmings's characters'--makes the book far more realistic and interesting than it would have been if it were only the sad story of a blameless young mother's death. You might think, too, that Hemmings's story would drag, as very little happens in the book: Matt and his daughters and the older girl's boyfriend track down Joanie's lover, Matt spars with his in-laws, he worries about his ten-year-old's precocious sexuality, Joanie dies. But the drama comes in the development of the characters' personalities. All of the principals are fully fleshed out, and they are all changed by the experience of Joanie's death.

The Descendants is very well-written and highly readable. Don't be turned off by its grim subject matter.

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