In the late 1940s, the Senter family enjoys an idyllic, if isolated, life in rural Maine. Parents Tup and Doris love each other and dote on their three children, all of them laboring together to keep their farm running, the family fed, and to still have time for occasional respite. As Tup says, “The farm is a bulwark…This world, and then the world outside. We are safe on this land, in this home.”
The novel is crafted in three parts: Before, During, and After, and the story is told alternately by three members of the family over nearly twenty years time. Before: Life on a working farm is hard: the work is unending, physical, demanding. In a time before television, the family entertains itself in quiet ways: reading aloud in the evenings, telling stories, playing the piano. Death is often nearby: “There are rhythms here and we are part of them. You never take a life needlessly. But if a deer is eating my apples and trampling my hay, I have a natural right to protect what’s mine.”
During is when tragedy strikes and the family shatters, splinters, spirals into individual eddies of grief and guilt. “To everything now, there is the before and the after. The before feels like a dream, the now and the tomorrow demanding something we don’t yet possess.” It seems impossible for the Senters to overcome this burden but author Meredith Hall carefully leads them—and us—to a new future in which forgiveness is possible, and grace is still available. As Dodie, the daughter, says, “While I stood at the kitchen sink looking out on our land, I felt for the first time in a very long time the simple and perfect beauty of our lands, its beneficence, and I said yes…”
Beneficence is one of the best novels I’ve read all year, the perfect antidote to troubled times, beautifully composed and lyrically told. I cannot recommend it strongly enough.
This page was created by an City Book Review staff member.
|Page Count||300 pages|
|Publisher||David R. Godine|
|Amazon||Buy this Book|