Chursinoff’s remarkable debut is a distinctively structured, sublimely written and moving tale of love, loss, intergenerational trauma and ultimately redemption, set in one of Canada’s most enigmatic and misunderstood ethno-religious communities.
Seven years after a brutal encounter with the Hells Angels, two ex-lovers, Jonah Seeger and Ruby Samarodin, return to their Doukhobor religious community in the mountains of British Columbia to heal and start new lives. Jonah is a twenty-five-year-old from a disgraced family, and now injured and battling PTSD from his time as a Marine. Ruby, practically Doukhobor royalty, is a rock star with a substance use disorder.
Jonah finds his mother, Sharon, still struggling with an eating disorder stemming from her terrorist upbringing in the Doukhobor splinter sect known as the Sons of Freedom. Ruby returns to Sasha, the young son she abandoned, and to her overbearing mother, Virginia, a pious pillar of the community raised to loathe the Sons of Freedom.
After a heartfelt reunion between Jonah, Ruby, and Sasha, they learn that a murderous Hells Angel, Clinton Pritchard, is still obsessed with revenge for the damage Jonah caused years earlier. But when Ruby confronts Clinton about their terrible past, Clinton’s brother Swanny Pritchard must choose whether to side with his brother or turn against him. Jonah and Ruby unwittingly draw their family into a final confrontation with the Hells Angels that will test longheld, pacifist Doukhobor beliefs.
About the author
Robert Chursinoff was born and raised in the Doukhobor community of southeastern British Columbia. He draws inspiration for The Descendants from his upbringing and his years spent drumming for Grammy-nominated duo Tegan and Sara, Australian pop star Ben Lee, the Be Good Tanyas, Juno-nominated performer Kinnie Starr, the Belle Game and many others. His writing has been published in the literary journal Blank Spaces, the anthology Just Words Volume 4, and online in Vice, Nowhere Magazine, Upworthy and Matador Network. As a scriptwriter, he has worked on dozens of Red Bull Media House documentaries and series. He lives in Vancouver, BC, on the traditional, unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Coast Salish peoples with his partner and their dog.
“A raw, searing, yet sweet love story and family drama, The Descendants takes readers inside Canada’s pacifist Doukhobor community and the turbulent world of Hells Angels bikers. Chursinoff’s characters are gritty, real and complex. Readers will be swept up in this layered debut novel, an exploration of the human spirit and the enduring power of love.”
Aren X. Tulchinsky, author of <i>The Five Books of Moses Lapinsky</i>
“I very much enjoyed reading Robert Chursinoff’s first novel, The Descendants. I think it’s a remarkable achievement, one that deserves a wide range of readers, both for the appeal of the story it tells and for the importance of understanding the stories that have shaped it, stories of a BC history—of the group generally known as the Doukhobors—that has so often been misinterpreted and too easily set aside ... This is a carefully crafted book, about love: love as a belief, love as an action, and love as the force and life of an entire community ... Chursinoff writes with insights born of experience and inquiry, and with extraordinary compassion ... This is more than a documentary narrative; it’s a fiction and a history combined—personal and socially pointed and seriously contemporary, passionate and compassionate and thoughtful. It’s at once a testament to the power of individuals to deal with their culture-crossed stories and a tribute to the tenets they choose to value. I look forward to Robert Chursinoff’s next book.”
W.H. (William) New, <i>The British Columbia Review</i>
“Themes of love and anger, of friendship and conflict, and of forgiveness and second chances dominate this intergenerational tale of Doukhobor descendants whose lives and identities are inexorably bound together despite their respective efforts to escape their pasts and each other. Robert Chursinoff’s meticulously researched story is a sometimes tender, often gritty tale of how our past impacts the present.”
Jonathan Kamalkoff, writer and historian, doukhobor.org
“Some authors are archaeologists, able to dig up some past and forgotten piece of history and show us the treasures buried beneath. Robert Chursinoff is just such an author. He’s unearthed a misunderstood but vibrant community and from it created a riveting story of love, prejudice and hope. A compelling read.”
David Layton, author of <i>Motion Sickness</i>, <i>The Dictator</i> and <i>The Bird Factory</i>
“Debut author Robert Chursinoff seamlessly weaves a gripping tale of rock ’n’ roll, intergenerational trauma and love within a relatively unknown ethno-religious subculture. This is a must-read for anyone who enjoys precise, unflinching and intimate storytelling and wants to know more about what makes British Columbia what it is.”
Kinnie Starr, songwriter, author and filmmaker
“The Descendants captivated me from the first page and never let up. Only a touring musician and a Doukhobor could depict both subjects with as much authenticity as Chursinoff has. Riveting, poignant, memorable, Chursinoff’s debut will do for the Doukhobors what Miriam Toews has done for Mennonites.”
Sara Quin, <i>New York Times</i> bestselling author of <i>High School</i> and member of indie-pop duo Tegan and Sara