- About the Book
From the day Caitlin vanishes the lives of her family members are irrevocably altered, each assuming blame for that days tragic events. As the initial days of hope are replaced by weeks of anxiety and despair, they find themselves increasingly isolated, each wondering: Is she still alive? Will we ever know what happened?Pursuing every angle and refusing to surrender the belief that his daughter is still alive, Caitlins father struggles through the mountainous terrain, prodding both his son and the local authorities to keep up the search. It is through a most unlikely source, however, that they finally find an answer, in a climax that is stunning in both its execution and resolution.Written with precision and elegance, Johnston captures characters emotions, divergent thoughts, and moments of bleak loneliness as they search for answers. Descent is both a taut and gripping thriller and a work of outstanding literary merit, a combination of great story and beautiful writing that is certain to garner comparisons with the work of such bestselling writers as Cormac McCarthy and Dennis Lehane.
The missing girl has become a common, almost tiresome, plot device in suspense fiction, which makes what novelist Tim Johnston does with the premise all the more remarkable.... Descent is first and foremost a thriller you'll want to make sure no one interrupts you when you hit the last 100 pages but what makes the novel unforgettable is its sense of character, its deliberate, unadorned prose and Johnston's unflinching exploration of human endurance, physical and psychological.... If Johnston writes more books like this, the genre will be all the better for it.
Fiction that preys on our deepest fears or insecurities often seems indelicate. It stultifies our emotional responses and reactions rather than enlivening them. In what is a largely emotional medium, the hazards are obvious. But when done well, this sort of fiction can be among the most profound and interesting, to say nothing of the most emotionally resonant. Tim Johnston's second novel (and third work of fiction) is definitely a case of the latter.... Johnston is a meticulous and careful storyteller, a true craftsman, which is perhaps not surprising considering his career as a carpenter. But don't be fooled by his blue-collar biography. Though Descent is put together with plumb lines and a sturdy foundation, it's more than obvious that Johnston is as comfortable with the architecture and design as he is with the hammer and nails. The result of his talents is an incredibly powerful, richly atmospheric and emotionally complicated novel about the way a family can fall apart, and be put back together again.
—Minneapolis Star Tribune
—Minneapolis Star Tribune
DESCENT is the story of a family that is united at first, but quickly falls apart and then, slowly, almost imperceptibly, begins to come together once again, though it may never be quite the same. It is everything a novel should be: unpredictable, poignant, ironic, redemptive, and beautifully and wonderfully told. It contains elements of heartbreak, betrayal, friendship and unexpected redemption. You will want to read it twice: once to enjoy, and a second time to experience how the job of constructing a literary work without sacrificing story is fittingly and properly done. Oh, and if you have children, you will want to construct a portable security fence around them. Seriously. But you need to read DESCENT anyway.
Descent is fluent and big-hearted, both a gripping thriller and a carefully nuanced look at a heartbroken but hopeful family.... The book's middle section sags slightly in places, and the descriptions of the Rockies' beauty are sometimes overcooked. But the conclusion is riveting a sudden intuition leads to acts of unexpected generosity and astonishing, resourceful bravery. In less capable hands than Johnston's, this ending might seem contrived and implausible. Here, it feels just right.
It's every parent's worst nightmare. Anyone whose child has gone missing knows the cold terror that grips the heart. That's the opening hook in Tim Johnston's dazzling debut adult novel. The author keeps it going, creating a 384-page literary thriller out of a family dissembling after its track-star daughter goes for a morning run in the mountains and disappears.... Sometimes the foreshadowings and portents pile up into overkill... This is nonetheless an exquisitely crafted psychological study of loss and survival. The characters lift off the page, the dialogue seems overheard not manufactured, and the taut plot pivots on original surprising twists.
—Dallas Morning News
—Dallas Morning News
If you're a parent or grandparent, or simply a caring individual, there's nothing more painful to contemplate than the horrors that might be visited upon a lost girl. I've read many variations on this theme, some quite good, but never one as powerful as Tim Johnston's Descent.... The story unfolds brilliantly, always surprisingly, but the glory of Descent lies not in its plot but in the quality of the writing. The magic of his prose equals the horror of Johnston's story; each somehow enhances the other.... I hope the literary thriller label doesn't scare away lovers of serious fiction who are suspicious of thrillers, or thriller fans who think literary means dull. Literary is not really relevant. The question is whether you value gorgeous prose and can accept a story as painful as it is beautiful. If you do and you can, read this astonishing novel. It's the best of both worlds.