How do we live with love, with beauty, with betrayal, with loss? Meredith Hall’s “Beneficence” is the tale of a stretch of land, its farm and its family. The story of three generations of the Senter family covers three decades (1940s-1960s). It is not a guidebook for how to survive tragedy, but sheds light on the way we may live after loss.

“Beneficence” begins with Tup Senter and his wife Doris returning to the family farm, tending their animals and growing their family. Over the years the relationships strengthen and then, after tragedy strikes, shatter and transform. Told from three points of view, we learn how Tup, Doris and their daughter Dodie change individually.

If I have one criticism of this book, it would be that it is hard to imagine in a family of five that three are such introspective, poetic thinkers. However, one must forgive this when reading passages like the following from Tup. “We ride this little planet with all its sorrow and all its love and all its beauty and all its hard mysteries. There is not time to waste. Learning love is, I think, why we have the inexplicable chance, these few years on this earth.”

Beneficence is Meredith Hall’s first book since her lauded 2007 memoir “Without a Map.” Let’s hope we don’t have to wait more than a decade for her next work.


by Meredith Hall; David R. Godine Publisher, 2020

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