Published by Algonquin Books on January 6th 2015
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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.
Praise for Descent:
“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. . . . Read this astonishing novel. It’s the best of both worlds.”
“Tim Johnston has written a book that makes Gone Girl seem gimmicky and forced. . . . My heart’s still pounding even now as I’m trying to describe the novel, recalling just about every turn and twist of the action, remembering how engaged I was, and how surprised I felt at just how far Johnston could wander from the main premise and still keep me with him. . . . You’ll want to set this one down so you can take a breath, and pick it up and keep reading—all at the same time.”
—Alan Cheuse, NPR
“Outstanding . . . The days when you had to choose between a great story and a great piece of writing? Gone.”
“Tim Johnston’s high-wire literary thriller . . . will leave you gasping.”
A combination of a great story and beautiful writing, Descent is both a thriller and a work of remarkable literary sensibility. What makes it unique is not just that it’s a tautly paced thriller with a sense of mounting suspense, but that it’s also a story of the survivors, the family members left behind. The Rocky Mountains have cast their spell over the Courtlands, who are taking a family vacation before their daughter leaves for college. 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. Written with a precision that captures every emotion, every moment of fear, as each member of the family searches for answers, Descent races like an avalanche toward its heart-pounding conclusion.
TIM JOHNSTON is the author of the New York Times bestselling novel Descent, the story collection Irish Girl, and the young adult novel Never So Green. Published in 2009, the stories in Irish Girl won an O. Henry Prize, the New Letters Award for Writers, and the Gival Press Short Story Award, while the collection itself won the 2009 Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Short Fiction. In 2005 the title story, “Irish Girl,” was included in the David Sedaris anthology of favorites Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules. Johnston’s stories have also appeared in New England Review, New Letters, the Iowa Review, theMissouri Review, DoubleTake, Best Life Magazine, and Narrative Magazine, among others. He holds degrees from the University of Iowa and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. In 2011-12 he was the Jenny McKean Moore Writer-in-Washington Fellow at The George Washington University, and he currently teaches in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Memphis.
PLEASE WELCOME TIM TO BOOKHOUNDS !
- What is on your nightstand? My UE Boom & my smartphone, cuz when I can’t sleep I listen to tunes. I don’t usually read in bed; by that time I’ve been reading all day long & it’s the last thing I want to do.
- What author would you totally fan? Teju Cole, whose debut novel Open City just astounds me.
- What makes you cringe? The sound of people talking loudly on their phones in public spaces. Why as a culture we didn’t stop this in its tracks when we had the chance I will never understand.
- Since it is NaNoWriMo month, do you have any encouraging words for writers? Writing a novel is usually a very long & lonesome haul, but there is no other way to do it & at the end of it, you have done the best work you can & what more can you ask of yourself or give the world…until you begin the next one?
- Do you obsessively plot out each point or just go with the flow? I follow some general roadsigns, until I veer off & go down some totally unforseen road. My process is very much in the camp of learning where you’re going by going there.
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