Author: Joanna Hershon
Published: May 2013
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Genre: General Fiction
Source: a complimentary copy was provided by the publisher and TLC Book Tours which in no way influenced this review. The opinions stated here are my own.
Autumn 1962: Ed Cantowitz and Hugh Shipley meet in their final year at Harvard. Ed is far removed from Hugh’s privileged upbringing as a Boston Brahmin, yet his drive and ambition outpace Hugh’s ambivalence about his own life. These two young men form an unlikely friendship, bolstered by a fierce shared desire to transcend their circumstances. But in just a few short years, not only do their paths diverge—one rising on Wall Street, the other becoming a kind of global humanitarian—but their friendship ends abruptly, with only one of them understanding why.
Can a friendship define your view of the world? Spanning from the Cuban Missile Crisis to the present-day stock market collapse, with locations as diverse as Dar es Salaam, Boston, Shenzhen, and Fishers Island, A Dual Inheritance asks this question, as it follows not only these two men, but the complicated women in their vastly different lives. And as Ed and Hugh grow farther and farther apart, they remain uniquely—even surprisingly—connected.
I am really enjoying reading A Dual Inheritance and though I am not quite finished yet, it is one book that I would recommend. For readers who enjoyed The Bellwether Revivals, this novel will remind you of it very much. The writing style is somewhat similar, but it is the character development that often makes me think of The Bellwether Revivals.
The characters are complicated. Ed is from a less prominent home and is attending Harvard on scholarship, while Hugh comes from money and didn't have to worry about tuition nor getting a scholarship. Ed seeks money and status and Hugh would rather be invisible. He could care less about financial status and I believe that is what took him across the world to Africa to run a medical facility, where finances could help others but it didn't have a role in one's status.
The two of them are incredibly opposite in most ways but they seem to balance each other. Their dialogue plays out the differences as the two banter, question each other; seeing another world through a friend's eyes. When Hugh reconnects with Helen, she and Ed don't seem to hit if off very well. In fact, she reassured Hugh that she would find something to like about Ed whom she is uncertain about. That she always does. Well, she did. Was this why Ed ended his friendship with Hugh?
Later, Ed marries and has a daughter whom he dotes upon but he is not altogether happy. My question is, is Hugh? Is Helen happy? Certainly Jill, Ed's wife doesn't really seem to be. So, I am wondering, what is the connection that will forever tie these men to one another? Will it be a big "aha" moment? I am really looking forward to finding out.
In the meantime, if you are looking for a character driven novel with a few secrets, tension, and a glimpse from the sixties forward; A Dual Inheritance certainly delivers.
Joanna Hershon is the author of The German Bride, The Outside of August, and Swimming. She has received fellowships from Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and the Edward Albee Foundation. An adjunct assistant professor in the creative writing department at Columbia University, she lives in Brooklyn with her husband, the painter Derek Buckner, and their twin sons.