This is a novel about family and responsibility. It takes place in the exotic garden that is Hawaii and I believe the location adds to its appeal. Matt King is a lawyer and also an heir to a vast tract of Hawaiian property. His wife has been critically injured in a boat-racing accident and is in a coma in hospital. Matt has to assume the care of their two daughters after having been a mostly hands off dad. He finds that both girls have significant problems. He also discovers that his wife was having an affair and that she may have been planning to leave him. He embarks on an odyssey. He wants to touch base with family and friends who were important to his wife and also to determine the nature of the relationship between his wife and the real estate agent she was bedding down with.
At the same time Matt is under pressure to make a decision regarding the family land he inherited from an Hawaiian ancestor. Despite the seriousness of Matt's dilemma this is a novel that addresses issues of cultural identity, family betrayal and even death through humor. Matt is a likable character despite his considerable shortcomings and The Descendants is also easy to like although it is not the greatest novel ever written.
Disclosure: It may be that picturing Matt as George Clooney colored my view of the book.