Book Review: “Beneficence” by Meredith Hall

If grief and guilt could build an empire, Doris and Tup Senter would be rich. Instead, they’re merely miserable.

Life is idyllic on the post-World War II Senter family farm near Portland, Maine. Doris and Tup are content. In love, with three happy children that Doris protects like a mama bear.

Until tragedy strikes.

Doris believes it is all her fault. Tup believes it’s his. Their daughter, Dodie, is sure the fault is hers. Nobody talks about it. Ever. Tup and Dodie do their best to hold the family together while Doris retreats inside herself, unable to accept the loss. Twelve-year-old Dodie reluctantly steps up, a child forced into adulthood too soon. Tup does his best to reach Doris with no success. All the while the guilt grows. The chasm between Doris and her family widens.

The years pass and on the surface nothing changes. But Tup begins to resent Doris. He can’t understand why she can’t “get over it.” Doris understands she needs to get better but doesn’t have the will to do it. Dodie struggles with school, more chores than she can handle, and watching out for her little brother, Best. The guilt festers, and nobody knows what it will take to put this family back together again.

Beneficence is an amazing story of loss and acceptance. More than that, Ms. Hall expertly weaves the tale into a rich tapestry as Doris, Tup, and Dodie share the ensuing years from their own viewpoints. It is one of those books that will astound the reader with both the story and the author’s incredible skill, one of those books that  inspires me, as a writer, to up my game to this kind of higher level.

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