eBook - 2015
Average Rating:
Rate this:
Workman Press.
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 disappears during an early morning run with her brother, Sean, the mountains become as terrifying as they are majestic. 

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.

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

“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

Baker & Taylor
"Descent, the story of a family undone by the disappearance of a daughter who went out for a morning run and didn't come back, marks the adult fiction debut of a remarkable young writer. Stunning in its emotional impact, Descent is a compulsively readable page-turner with a strong literary sensibility. The girl's vanishing--on a sunny, late-summer vacation morning--all the more devastating for its mystery, is the beginning the family's harrowing journey down increasingly divergent and solitary paths, until all that continues to bind them to each other are the questions they can never bring themselves to ask: At what point does a family stop searching? At what point does a girl stop fighting for her life? In the weeks and months that follow, hope leads todisillusionment, and each of them--father, mother, son--withdraws into emotional isolation, individually assessing the blame and assuming the responsibility for their collective loss. Haunting and unforgettable, Descent is a novel that will grab the reader's heart and mind, and will linger there long after the last page is turned" --

Publisher: Algonquin Books,, 2015
ISBN: 9781616204303
Characteristics: 1 online resource
Additional Contributors: Baker & Taylor Axis 360
Alternative Title: Axis 360 eBooks


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment

Feb 02, 2018

Hmmm. I’m trying to understand the attraction to this story and author as so many have mentioned. It’s not that it was a bad book; it just didn’t have any great suspense or out of the ordinary experience.
Like others, I also had to re-read a few paragraphs to understand who the author was referring to or who was talking. It does jump around between characters and their lives, so that was a bit disjointed.

Feb 07, 2017

Read this book. It had me reading deep into the night to find out how it ended. The next morning, I had to recap it to my friend and loan it out to another friend. This is a book that was lent to me and I am determined to lend it out over and over again. Not only is the story gripping, but the author's craft - symbolism, metaphor, and foreshadowing, make it a magical work of literature rarely found in a mystery novel (anymore). Just read it and prepare to finish the last 70+ pages in one night.

Feb 06, 2017

Although a little hard to follow at the beginning because of multiple timelines, I made myself slow down and enjoy the wonderful writing of Mr. Johnston.

Apr 15, 2016

Good read. It could happen to anyone. Enjoyed the scary parts:) Good thriller.

Feb 13, 2016

When I first read the jacket description I wondered if I should even be reading this book, but it was a good and interesting book and so I kept on until the end. But I really wish I would have left this one alone. Left me feeling too sad.

Feb 10, 2016

Really enjoyed this book - extremely well written. Looks at the family and their reaction to losing their daughter to what they do not know. The never give up looking for her and missing her. This book has an ending you never saw coming. Engrossing until the end.

Jan 17, 2016

Engrossing and horrifying thriller.

cathyf3 Jan 05, 2016

A typical family outing, that goes so wrong. Their daughter is going off to college, so they take a family vacation to Colorado. The first day Caitlyn goes for a jog with her younger brother. Then a truck comes down and grabs her and hits her brother. Caitlyn is gone.
Her brother survives, but the family never gives up in finding her. The ending is chilling.

Aug 17, 2015

Really enjoyed this book; look forward to more by this author.

Jul 18, 2015

DESCENT has been referred to as a "literary thriller", & I couldn't agree more. The author's prose & description of place (the Rocky Mountains) are spot on. Characters are multi-dimensional. Much of this novel is devoted to the impact of a girl's tragic abduction & disappearance on the lives of her family & various inhabitants of a small Colorado community. If you expect a fast-paced thriller, you'll be disappointed, however the final 100 pages are particularly intense with a surprising twist at the end.

View All Comments


Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further



Find it at SMCL

To Top