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.
Tim Johnston is the author of the novel Descent, the story collection Irish Girl, and the Young Adult novel Never So Green. Published in 2009, the stories of 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. Tim’s stories have also appeared in New England Review, New Letters, The Iowa Review, The Missouri Review, Double Take, 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.
“THE BEST NOVEL I HAVE READ IN A LONG TIME. Johnston has a superhuman gift for watching and listening to the world and rendering, on teh page, its beauty and savagery with such detail and power that the story feels almost more like memory than something read.” —Mary Roach, author of Gulp
“Descent has it all: heart-pounding suspense, masterful plotting, great characters, superb writing, and AN ENDING THAT WILL LEAVE YOU GASPING FOR AIR .” —Jonathan Evison, author of The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving
“A MESMERIZING, BEAUTIFULLY WRITTEN THRILLER that will engulf you like a snowstorm in the Rockies . . . The mystery of what has become of Caitlin will keep you up all night, turning pages right through the spellbinding conclusion.” —Jennifer McMahon, author of The Winter People
“A poignant, heartbreaking story that picks the reader up by the neck and never lets go . . . Descent is A RELENTLESS PAGE -TURNER, and one of the best books I’ve read this year.” —Haven Kimmel, author of Iodine
"Like a punch to the heart, Johnston’s darkly addictive story about loss, hope, and all the ways we struggle to survive stuns you in a way you can’t possibly forget . . . AN EDGY, LITERATE THRILL-RIDE.” —Caroline Leavitt, author of Is This Tomorrow
“Every moment of this book feels real and truthful; every character feels like an actual human being; every plot twist feels honestly earned. THIS IS A BOOK I’LL BE RECOMMENDING TO PEOPLE FOR YEARS .” —BEN WINTERS, author of The Last Policeman
“Descent is NOTHING SHORT OF MIR ACULOUS. Tim Johnston knows secrets about families and knows how to render them on the page with heartbreaking beauty and lyricism . . . AN AMAZING ACHIEVEMENT.” —Alice LaPlante, author of A Circle of Wives