Beneficence

Meredith Hall. Godine, $25.95 (288p) ISBN 978-1-56792-669-9
Hall’s powerful if uneven debut novel (after the memoir Without a Map), follows a close-knit farming family through the aftermath of the family’s oldest son’s death in 1948 Maine. Thomas “Tup” Senter; his wife, Doris; and their children, Sonny, Dodie, and Beston, operate a dairy farm that has been in Tup’s family for five generations. After Sonny, 14, is accidentally killed while the siblings are playing with an old gun, Tup, Dodie, and Beston carry on despite their grief, while Doris, once energetic and loving, is overwhelmed by loss and guilt, and slips into an emotional paralysis. Tup copes by working nights at a mill, and after several years begins sleeping with the widowed mill owner. Dodie, left to watch over Beston and do Doris’s work rather than enjoy her high school years, cycles between anger and her deep love for her family and their farm. Hall takes her time getting things moving and oversells the idyllic state of the Senters before Sonny’s death. Still, her meticulous prose convincingly captures the daily realities—sometimes beautiful, sometimes cruel—of agricultural life, and offers insight into the ways calamity fractures family bonds. Patient readers will be rewarded. Agent: Jennifer Gates, Aevitas Creative. (Sept.)
Reviewed on : 07/06/2020
Release date: 09/01/2020
Genre: Fiction
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