by Tim Johnston

Overview -

A Breakout NEW YORK TIMES Bestseller

A USA Today Bestseller

An Indie National Bestseller

"Outstanding . . . The days when you had to choose between a great story and a great piece of writing?  Read more...

  • $25.95

Add to Cart + Add to Wishlist

In Stock

Free Shipping is not available for this item.
> Check In-Store Availability

In-Store pricing may vary

New & Used Marketplace 102 copies from $2.99

More About Descent by Tim Johnston

A Breakout NEW YORK TIMES Bestseller

A USA Today Bestseller

An Indie National Bestseller

"Outstanding . . . The days when you had to choose between a great story and a great piece of writing? Gone." --Esquire

"The story unfolds brilliantly, always surprisingly . . . The magic of his prose equals the horror of Johnston's story; each somehow enhances the other . . . Read this astonishing novel." --The Washington Post

"Tim Johnston's high-wire literary thriller . . . will leave you gasping." --Vanity Fair

"A riveting literary thriller of the can't-stop-turning-the-page, stay-up-all-night variety." --Alice LaPlante, author of A Circle of Wives

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.

  • ISBN-13: 9781616203047
  • ISBN-10: 1616203048
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books
  • Publish Date: January 2015
  • Page Count: 384
  • Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds

Related Categories

Books > Fiction > Thrillers - Crime

Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2014-10-13
  • Reviewer: Staff

In Johnston’s sorrowful and suspenseful first adult novel, a family is forced to face its worst nightmare when one of its members goes missing. Caitlin Courtland, an 18-year-old runner about to enter college on a track scholarship, is vacationing with her family in the Rockies when she fails to come back from an early morning run. Over the course of the next two years, the family fractures as no sign of Caitlin is ever found. Grant Courtland, Caitlin’s father, remains in the Rockies, while mother Angela tries to pick up the pieces back home in Wisconsin, where she eventually makes a failed attempt at suicide. Meanwhile, Caitlin’s younger brother, Sean, drives aimlessly around the country, getting in and out of trouble. Although it begins as one more variation on Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones, a late-in-the-novel coincidence sends the narrative in a new direction and turns it into a survival story involving a character who, heretofore, has played a relatively minor part in the drama. Johnston (Irish Girl) has a poet’s eye for the majestic and forbidding nature of the Rockies, and a sociologist’s understanding of how people act under pressure. He also has a knack for creating characters that the reader will come to care about, no matter how flawed they are. Combining domestic drama with wilderness adventure, Johnston has created a hybrid novel that is as emotionally satisfying as it is viscerally exciting. (Jan.)

BookPage Reviews

The depths of a family's nightmare

Tim Johnston’s latest novel has an unusual take on the parent’s-worst-nightmare scenario of child abduction. He doesn’t focus so much on the abductee, Caitlin Courtland, but instead on what Caitlin’s disappearance does to the men in her life.

Caitlin is snatched while the family is on vacation in the Rockies; they’re there partially because it’s a great place for Caitlin, a champion high school runner, to train. The disaster shatters the family almost at once, but things were shaky for the Courtlands even before the kidnapping. Dad Grant was unfaithful to his wife, Angela. Dudley adored his older sister, even though she teased him for being fat and unambitious. Still, both he and Grant are guilt-ridden for not being able to protect her.

Johnston’s women are tangential, but not because he’s one of those male writers who can’t write credible women. With the exception of Angela, who falls to pieces and stays that way for pretty much the whole book, the women are fairly strong, intelligent and well-rounded. Caitlin, during the brief time we see her, is a powerhouse. But it’s the men who demand answers; Caitlin’s abduction is an affront to their manhood, even if they never knew her. They speak in bursts of terse but beautifully rendered dialogue and their thoughts are just as circumspect. Johnston’s equally spare, alluring descriptions of the landscape, the weather, geriatric cars and trucks, farm equipment and firearms recall Annie Proulx.

Both suspenseful and sorrowful, Descent explores what it means to be a man—a husband, a father, a brother, a son, an officer of the law—in an uncertain time.


This article was originally published in the January 2015 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

BAM Customer Reviews