Release Date: January 24, 2011
Buying Links: Amazon The Book Depository
Book Blurb (from goodreads):
For generations, Aurelia was the crowning glory of more than three thousand acres of Iowa farmland and golden cornfields. The estate was a monument to matriarch Lavinia Hathaway's dream to elevate the family name - no matter what relative or stranger she had to destroy in the process. It was a desperation that wrought the downfall of the Hathaways - and the once prosperous farm.
Now the last inhabitant of the decaying old home has died - alone. None of the surviving members of the Hathaway family want anything to do with the farm, the land, or the memories.
Especially Meredith Pincetti. Now living in New York City, for seventeen years Lavinia's youngest grandchild has tried to forget everything about her family and her past. But with the receipt of a pleading letter, Meredith is again thrust into conflict with the legacy that destroyed her family's once-great name. Back at Aurelia, Meredith must confront the rise and fall of the Hathaway family... and her own part in their mottled history.
"Our farm was like the world when people still thought it was flat. And when you left it, it was as if you had simply sailed too far and fallen off the surface into the void."
"We are all alone," my grandmother had told me once. "No one feels our aches with us, or our pains or our joys. We are like islands floating in a sea together but that's all, we are still just an island, so close we can touch each other, smell each other, but always from a distance."My Thoughts:
Since I can be picky about the grammar and such in books, I want to note that the copy I read was a paper ARC. Since it was an ARC, it contained a number of incorrect words (Davy frequently used "tendered" for "tended"), missing words, typos, etc. that presumably were caught and fixed before it went to final print.
Apart from that, I enjoyed the story. Davy would drop little hints here and there, and sometimes those hints would be expanded upon and sometimes those hints would be all we would know about why or how something happened. The desire to know more, to see if I would learn all of the secrets kept me reading. Secrets, as Davy shows, are time bombs waiting to go off, causing ever-expanding ripples of damage. The story starts in the present day, told in the first person by Meredith, then jumps to the past, told in third person omniscient, then back to the present. Both viewpoints are told in every chapter but the break between and change in perspectives is clean, with no confusion. The third person omniscient allowed for details that we might not have gotten otherwise, but I felt as if I never really got into Lavinia's head, or understood, in the beginning anyway, what made her tick. Lavinia is the driving force in this story, the events flow from her actions and decisions. Initially, at least, her motivations were a bit weak, we weren't shown much insight into her behavior but as the story goes on, Davy makes them clearer.
Lavinia is hard, unsentimental, manipulative, and though she can read people sufficiently to manipulate, she utterly lacks sympathy and empathy. It's all about her and if she can't coerce or seduce you to her side, then she'll blackmail or break you, whichever best serves her end goal. The seduction, I should note, is not sexual; she could, when it suited her, be pleasant and kind, on the surface anyway, and before long, her victims were following her happily, with not a clue what they were getting themselves into.
With a matriarch such as Lavinia, it's no wonder that the Hathaway family is dysfunctional. The farm, and the family's reputation, are all that matters to Lavinia and she does her best to see they are priorities for the rest of the family, no matter how miserable they are. As long as the farm is prosperous and the family's reputation unstained, personal happiness is irrelevant. The pace lagged in places and the writing was occasionally pretentious, but it's a fascinating look into the disintegration of a family - obsession, secrets, jealousy, love, hate, desire - all of the things we do in the name of love or the desire to better ourselves, no matter the cost. Forgiveness, in real life, doesn't come easily, nor does it in the story. The survivors, Meredith and her sisters, have been mostly estranged for years, and dealing with the farm's dissolution re-opens scars. There's not a happy ending, Meredith and her sisters don't make up, life doesn't become all rainbows and ice cream.
If you like family sagas, multi-generational stories, with some soap opera elements to them, you might like this book. It reminded me at times of Steinbeck's "East of Eden", though it's been many years since I read that one.
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I received a paperback ARC for review.