Descent: A Novel (Paperback)

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Life lay like a shining path before her, this golden girl who could run like the wind, already accepted to a good college on a full scholarship, with the gift of a vacation before she buckled down to studying in the fall.  Caitlin picked the Rocky Mountains for the family trip, a place of infinite beauty, jagged tall peaks, and miles of trails to run. It was not to be, this glorious future that shimmered so closely before her.  Joyous and bursting with the energy of youth, she got up early for a run on the first sunshine filled day of vacation, accompanied by her younger brother on a mountain bike.  Tragedy was about to visit this family.  In the aftermath of Caitlin’s disappearance, each would suffer pangs of guilt, remorse, and loss.  What do you do when a loved one vanishes? At first police and search parties comb the mountainside, searching the paths, the underbrush, diligent and somber.  As time wears on, the chance of a successful outcome diminishes, and eventually the family is left alone with their anguish.  The mountains are vast; the missing girl could be anywhere!  Now they must face the future.  Her brother is eaten up with guilt; he was with her on that run!  The mother, at first so busy with the searchers and putting up flyers, sinks into depression.  The father refuses to give up and leave those wild, lonely mountains without his child.  He needs to know what happened, a yearning for retribution burns within him. How could he have brought his child to such a place of solitary wilderness?  As time moves forward, they each must come to grips with the past and begin taking steps forward. The driving force of this story is Caitlin, a golden girl full of promise.  Tim Johnston expertly mixes a heart in your throat thriller with the compassionately told story of a family and a conclusion that will leave you breathless.  Interesting characters populate the novel. 

— Deon Stonehouse

In this heart rending book, the story begins with
Caitlin. She is 18 years old. She is a runner, in her daytime thoughts and in
her dreams, a runner, undefeated in her senior year of high school. The plan is
to attend a college in Wisconsin, her home state, by way of the scholarship she
has earned. Life looks good. One crisp early morning she goes running through
the mountains in a Colorado resort town, her brother following on his bike.
That is when the abduction takes place. Caitlin is gone, her brother badly
injured, her family’s life forever changed. Is she alive?  That is the question that her parents and her
brother must grapple with as they each begin to dwell in their own purgatory of
uncertainty. Grant, Caitlin’s father and her brother, Sean take up residence in
Colorado during and after the investigation. Her mother remains in Wisconsin,
staying with her younger sister, Grace, Caitlin’s aunt. The book is about these
people and their relationships. It gives the reader a microscopic view of how
this family deals with their tragedy, bringing in issues and events from the
past that hugely impact their ability to cope and to hold together as a family.
So then we wonder, what really happens to all of them, as well as Caitlin’s
fate. The ending is surprising. The story is intriguing, captivating,
terrifying, and realistic, attributes that form a really good read.                                                                                                                                                     

— Nancy Nelson

January 2015 Indie Next List

“Descent is a gripping, utterly engrossing account of a girl's disappearance in the Rocky Mountains. The aftermath of this tragedy is told in alternating voices: the injured brother at the scene of the accident when she left with a stranger to get help; the mother who has been hospitalized and stunned into breathtaking grief; the father who has been unable to leave the small town where the family was vacationing when his daughter disappeared -- and most stunning of all, through the words of the victim herself. A real page-turner with a brilliantly conceived climax!”
— Kelly Estep, Carmichael's Bookstore, Louisville, KY


“Read this astonishing novel . . . The magic of his prose equals the horror of Johnston’s story.” —The Washington Post

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. 

“A compelling thriller that is both creepy and literary . . . Descent is not just a mystery. It is an emotional story of evil, fear, acceptance and irony.”—The Denver Post

“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.” —Miami Herald

“A super-charged, addictive read.” —The Missourian               

“An original and psychologically deep thriller.” —Outside magazine

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

“[A] dazzling debut . . . Exquisitely crafted.”  —The Dallas Morning News 

“Incredibly powerful, richly atmospheric.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune 

“[An] engulfing thriller-cum-western.” —The New York Times Book Review 

“Brilliant . . . As gripping as any Everest expedition.” —Peter Heller, author of The Dog Stars

About the Author

Tim Johnston, a native of Iowa City, is the author of The Current and the New York Times bestseller Descent, as well as a young adult novel, Never So Green, and the story collection Irish Girl, winner of the Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Short Fiction.
Product Details
ISBN: 9781616204778
ISBN-10: 161620477X
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Publication Date: December 1st, 2015
Pages: 400
Language: English