Published by Mira Books on January 24th 2012
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
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"To understand what it meant to be a Hathaway, you'd first have to see Aurelia."
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."
It’s hard to talk objectively about The Legacy of Eden because it is an intensely personal novel. How much you relate to it may well rest upon how horribly dysfunctional your family is. Or was. And I’m not just referring to your parents occasionally fighting or you uncle occasionally getting drunk and being thrown out of bars. This book is about the kind of family dysfunction that is a sickness spreading down the family lines until nobody is left unscathed.
In Meredith’s family, that sickness began with her grandmother, Lavinia. The book chronicles Lavinia through her marriages, her children, her children’s marriages and then to her grandchildren. In every single one of them you see the signs and symptoms of the sickness in all its forms and variation. You watch as, one by one, it ravages and destroys the family from the inside out.
Anybody looking for a great deal of events and a fast-moving plot are best to avoid this one. Davy takes her time skillfully weaving the tale. She hops backwards and forwards and slithers through time to bring her narrative together.
Where The Legacy of Eden really shines is its characterization. Each person in this novel is like a finely crafted portrait. Lavinia stands out as the strongest character, but all of them have their place – whether they make you fall in love with them, respect them, fear for them, mourn them or despise them. What you will probably not do, is get bored of them.
Davy’s writing is quite masterful. Her prose are beautiful and whimsical and Meredith’s voice is not a completely horrible headspace to be in.
I really, really loved this book as I was drawn into the mystery and intrigue. I’m not entirely sure I’ll ever read it again. It’s the kind of book that makes you look back on your own family legacy and look at the cracks and rotten tree limbs. For some, it’ll give that strange sense of nostalgia for something both horrible yet infinitely familiar.
And I guess horrible yet infinitely familiar is the perfect way to sum up the story and most of the characters.