The Courtland family is on their last family vacation in Colorado before their oldest, daughter Caitlin heads off to college. Caitlin, who is a runner and Sean, on his bike, head out for a run/bike ride together. Caitlin, impatient at times runs ahead of her brother and waits for him to catch up. Sean, while out of sight of his sister, gets hit by a truck and is seriously injured. Caitlin, desperate to get help since cell service is a no go so high in the mountains, hops in the truck of the driver who hit Sean. Caitlin never returns with help for Sean and the Courtland family begin their agonizing search to find Caitlin. What lies ahead of them is years of pain, loneliness, and a losing struggle to stay connected as a family.
In Descent Tim Johnston does a good job of portraying a family’s agony of a lost child. The family is fractured to begin with but the events on the mountain cause the fracture to become a gaping hole. The parts told from the mother’s point of view were at first confusing and give the reader a sense this person is on the brink of losing her grip with reality. I was initially a bit put off by these parts but then came to think of it as an effective way to show how the mom was dealing (or not dealing) with what happened. I imagine it would be pure torture not knowing what happened to a child or knowing the whereabouts of that child. Later in the book the mom’s point of view gets a little more clear given the passage of time, though she is still a tortured soul. After the loss of Caitlin, the family stays in Colorado for a few months while the search for her progresses. After a while, it’s time for Sean and his mom to return home so he can return to school and the father stays in Colorado, never giving up hope to find Caitlin.
The loss of Caitlin seems to have taken Sean off track and, a few years later, he is wandering the country, doing little jobs when he can find the work. A series of events unfolds that cause Sean to eventually gets back together with his dad in Colorado and it’s at this point the book picks up steam. I don’t want to give too much away since I enjoyed how things played out in the second half of the book. I’ll just say the pace picks up and the book becomes fairly suspenseful. An overall enjoyable read. A bit start/stop at the beginning but after the first part the story becomes a bit more cohesive and draws to a satisfying conclusion.