Synopsis: “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.”
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Nelle Davy’s The Legacy of Eden was a little hard to read through. The story had a depressing tone, filled with stories of the struggles and dysfunctions of a family. The history of a family, told and felt through many generations, can usually be filled with happiness. But in the case of the Hathaway family, it is filled with anger and sorrow.
The Legacy of Eden mainly revolves around Meredith Pincetti. Meredith has spent a large part of her life trying to escape her family, and the memories that Aurelia, her childhood home, held. But unfortunately, no matter what she does or what life she leads, those memories still manage to haunt her. A recent death of a distant cousin has left final decisions up to Meredith. As she makes preparations to sell the family home, the story presents recollections from Meredith and her grandmother.
Meredith’s grandmother is Lavinia, the matriarch of the Hathaways, and was probably my favorite to read. She was interesting, but filled with pride, and most definitely with faults. She stopped at nothing to isolate her family from the rest of the town, feeling that they were above everyone else. She created this family culture that was unhealthy, ruining not only the dynamic but the relationships themselves.
Meredith, her mother, and her sister seemed to play as the supporting characters in The Legacy of Eden. It was clear that Lavinia pulled the strings, even beyond the grave. The relationships lacked love and support, and instead were filled with dreary, resentful feelings. But despite the overall foreboding feeling of the book, the characters were all solid. They each brought something to the table, adding the dimensions of complexity to the family, as well as the story.
There are some strong and emotional moments in Legacy. And maybe that’s why I couldn’t get into it. The story takes place in the present, but half of the book jumps back to the past. And maybe that’s where my fault was. I was getting confused with the jumping. While I know the memories were important, my mind wouldn’t focus. But the writing was perfect for what Davy set out to deliver. The plot revealed itself in a timely manner, adding the complimentary details when needed.
When I say that The Legacy of Eden was hard to read through, I meant it was emotionally difficult. I suppose it depends on the reader’s familial background, and the culture in their home, but for me, I understand dysfunction. It wasn’t necessarily my immediate family, but that word is not a stranger in my vocabulary. But that’s what I love about stories like The Legacy of Eden. It teaches me that not all stories are filled with happily ever after. And when an author can bring me to a sad and depressed state? Then I applaud them to choosing their words wisely.