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Reviewed by Jax Kepple
Spanning the course of fifty years, A Dual Inheritance covers jealousy, wealth, love, longing, family and friendship as it affects the lives of first Ed Cantowitz and Hugh Shipley, and then their daughters Rebecca and Vivi. Author Joanna Hershon sets up the story right at the moment Ed and Hugh meet, and the story progresses chronologically through the ups and downs of their lives in the early 1970s, and then switches over to the entwined lives of their daughters, who meet at boarding school and bring the story up to present day.
When Ed and Hugh meet at Harvard while they are undergrads, they quickly become friends; the perfect compliments to each other. Hugh comes from old money, and his future is planned out for him but he can’t deny that deep down he wants to do more with his life. So he goes to Africa to start medical clinics and along the way marries his high school sweetheart, Helen. Ed has always resented and is extremely jealous of old wealth and how Hugh always has had everything given to him so easily, and decides to do whatever it takes to achieve immense wealth. After going to Helen’s parents’ house for a weekend getaway, Ed meets Helen’s father, who offers him a summer job and Ed begins his high profile career on Wall Street. After a chance encounter with Helen before she is due to leave for Africa, Ed becomes very bitter about everything and cuts Hugh and Helen off. He winds up marrying another motivated, high achieving woman, Jill, and together they become a New York City power couple.
Vivi and Rebecca’s story is not as intense until after an existential crisis that leads Rebecca to quit her job and break up with her boyfriend. Suddenly, Rebecca finds herself in Africa alone with Hugh and has an epiphany. I felt as though Vivi’s character was a tad underdeveloped, and she was clearly the least likable out of everyone, even though Hugh and Ed do some very questionable things. I liked how, while Rebecca and Vivi both portrayed aspects of their fathers, they were able to get past it and form a lasting friendship.
I truly enjoyed Hershon’s writing style – she is able to convey what each character is thinking and their motivations without being too simplistic. The story was a bit unpredictable but had a satisfying ending, after each character has gone through the ringer, personally and professionally. The result is a rich, layered story about how life is imperfect but it’s important to keep those you care about close.
Jax is in an accountant at a hedge fund. She resides in NYC with her husband.
Review and giveaway copies were provided free of any obligation by Ballantine Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.