New Today: A Dual Inheritance by Joanna Hershon

Boston 1962. Hugh Shipley and Ed Cantowitz are seniors at Harvard. Son of poor Jewish immigrants, Ed craves financial success, something he’s willing to aim for at almost any cost. Hugh, on the other hand, is from a wealthy family and has loftier goals. He wants to go to Africa and help those less fortunate than himself.

The years unwind and, in carefully shared chapters, the picture changes. Over time, Ed discovers he is less hollow than he feared. For his part, Hugh finds he is more flawed than he ever dreamed. And the two are bound by their love for the beautiful and enigmatic Helen, whose contributions to their shared stories will be surprising.

I’ve oversimplified, of course. Compressing a gorgeous, rich and deeply nuanced story into a couple of paragraphs. A Dual Inheritance (Ballantine) is so much more than that. For one thing, the careful unraveling of many years and an international backdrop give the novel an epic canvas. Hershon’s keenly told observations add another, deeper, dimension while her bang-on dialog and detailed character studies result in a story that seems to breath on its own as it leads us from Boston to Wall Street and from China to Haiti and Africa.

This is Hershon’s fourth novel, after The German Bride, Swimming and The Outside of August. This may be the best of a very good bunch. A Dual Inheritance is a stunning and accomplished read. I enjoyed every line. ◊

Monica Stark is a contributing editor to January Magazine. She currently makes her home on a liveaboard boat somewhere in the North Pacific.

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