Manipulation and greed war with love and decorum in The Legacy of Eden, Nelle Davy's debut novel about three generations of an Iowa farm family ruled by a scheming matriarch.
Aurelia: the name conjures images of grandeur for those who knew the Hathaway family estate in its glory days. Now it lies in ruin, its final owner has died destitute, and attempts to contact the surviving family meet with disdain. For 17 years, Meredith Hathaway has lived under her mother's maiden name, trying to hide from her tumultuous family even while hallucinating their ghosts. As she visits Aurelia one last time, Meredith resurrects every skeleton in her family's closet for the reader's examination.
Beginning with her indomitable grandmother Lavinia, who destroyed lives to elevate the family image, and continuing through two generations of Hathaway history, Meredith exposes the betrayal, scandals and heartbreak that built and destroyed her family. (By showing the means women once had to use to attain power, Davy's story is also a subtle indictment of materialism.) It all leads to a final confrontation that might bring reconciliation--or leave Meredith adrift forever. Although the reader will realize the unlikelihood of a happy ending, the Hathaways' morbidly fascinating dysfunction makes the book a fast read. Meredith's narration is gentle enough to evoke lace curtains and garden parties, but Davy creates suspense through the crafty schemes of Lavinia and strong doses of foreshadowing. The subdued yet powerful story of Aurelia will linger with readers long after the final chapter. --Jaclyn Fulwood, graduate assistant, University of Oklahoma Libraries