By Tim Johnston
Tim Johnston, author of ‘Descent’, did a good job of keeping me interested in his story throughout the 374 pages of his telling. Set in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado the scenery was breathtaking. I could imagine the mountains, the thin air, the fog snaking through the trees, and the biting cold of winter as well as the radiant sun through the summer. It helped that my family took a vacation to this very setting while reading it, but I could have been transported there either way, being there just gave it more texture.
Caitlyn is an 18yo girl when the story begins; she is a runner from Wisconsin about to go to college on a track scholarship. She and her family decide to take a trip to Colorado from their home in Wisconsin so that she can train in the mountains before starting school. She and her 15yo brother head up the mountain trail early one morning alone, mom and dad stay at the hotel, Sean (brother) is on his mountain bike. Dad gets a phone call while they are gone, hikers have found Sean unconscious with a badly broken leg, he is in the hospital. Dad asks for Caitlyn, there is no Caitlyn. There starts the remaining part of the book. Where is Caitlyn? How her family deals with her disappearance, the turns each of their lives take, and how they go about looking for her in a place far from their own home makes for interesting reading and kept me curious about where it was going to lead.
I can’t say much more about the story itself without telling its secrets. It bounces around to different viewpoints throughout the novel, sometimes I liked this, sometimes I didn’t. It also slid into different time periods, I found this a little confusing, I would have to stop and make sure I understood where, and what time in the story I was in. Once I got further in the book this got less noticeable, and it read more smoothly. I found the book good enough that I wanted to keep reading, but not one I would call a favorite or a page turner. There just wasn’t enough suspense for me, I felt like I knew too much too soon. I also never really felt completely invested in the characters. I was detached from them as if I were reading a story in the newspaper about people I didn’t know, instead of being in a story about people close to me that I cared about.
I found it to be well written, and constructed nicely. The author had some very good metaphors, similes, and descriptive adjectives that helped me visualize the story and added rich ambience throughout. The “aspens chattered”, the “woods of the mountains went on and on like the sea”, and “the sun on the lake was a rich, wobbling yolk of deep yellow”. The deep, binding love of family and the destruction a tragic event can cause to a family and its individual members was a strong and vivid theme. “And if the country was no longer strange to them, it was still strange in that it had never again astounded them, nor awed nor excited them again, but only reminded them every day and almost from hour to hour what it had taken from them and what it had made of them.” I liked this quote because I could imagine that is exactly how I would feel in the same circumstances. Our family visited Colorado with awe struck visions of the gorgeous mountains, snow, and trees ahead of us, but if one of us had disappeared while we were there, all of those things would have changed dramatically in our minds. Every piece of the story was well thought out, researched, given plausibility, and described in every detail. All the loose ends were tied up, and I was satisfied with the ending.
I would have a hard time putting this in a genre, there wasn’t a lot of mystery, or suspense, and it wasn’t really a thriller. There were a couple small twists, but most of the time you knew what was happening even if the characters themselves didn’t know. I would recommend ‘Descent’ to anyone who enjoys reading a well written story about crime and its rippling affects to family and people.