Published by Ballantine Books
Publication date: May 7th 2013
For as far back as they could remember, they’d both felt like outsiders. That they’d shared this feeling—that they shared anything –was surprising to both of them. Surprising and tremendously comforting.
A Dual Inheritance is a sweeping story of two families and their yin-yang lives through two generations. In somewhat traditional casting we meet Ed, a working-class Jewish boy and Hugh, a wealthy WASP, at that most adventurous time of life, college. Harvard, to be exact, where Ed’s brash, curious mind connects with Hugh’s general ennui and discomfort with his family’s wealth. They are two sides to the same coin. One wants wealth, accomplishment, and possessions and the other wants to shed them like a hair shirt. Hugh meets the lovely Helen, from his social class and with the same feelings about it. The three form their own mismatched trio until school ends. Then Hugh is off to Africa to work in a clinic and Ed heads to the jungle of Wall Street to make his fortune. Hugh and Helen are engaged despite her father’s disapproval of his ‘flighty’ behavior. When the engagement drags on, Helen questions their love and turns to Ed for comfort, effectively shattering the friendships as Ed feels his betrayal of Hugh so deeply he can never speak to him again. When he learns that Hugh and Helen have married he closes the door on his past and focuses on making the life he wants (without Helen with whom he is love). Soon he is married, running his own hedge fund and the proud father of a daughter named Rebecca. Hugh continues his aid work in Africa and then Haiti with Helen and his daughter Genevieve by his side.
Author Joanna Hershon directs the plot of A Dual Inheritance as carefully as Oz behind the curtain. It does not come as a complete surprise that the families are drawn together again by the daughters, who attend the same boarding school. One, because her father went there and the other, because her father (Ed) is still chasing the dream of what is best. They become friends despite having very different temperaments and we follow them from college into the adult world of jobs and love. It is a family wedding that brings the older generation back together after decades and in the span of several days everyone’s perceptions and reality will be shaken.
Grand family dramas are wonderful reading when properly composed and with her compassionate depiction of the best and worst of each of her characters, Hershon accomplishes this. The novel is multi-dimensional and covers a great deal of human territory but always without being fatuous or getting bogged down. It glides forward as smoothly as the years do and as it winds down, there is a quiet sense of completion; a satisfaction that even with all its hardship everything has gone as it should.