Beneficence

“If the word ‘luminous’ didn’t already exist, you’d have to invent it to describe Meredith Hall’s radiant new novel.”
—Richard Russo

When they meet in the 1930s, Doris and Tup’s love is immediate. They marry quickly and Doris commits to the only life Tup ever wanted: working the Senter family farm, where his parents and grandparents and great-grandparents are buried under the old pines. Their lives follow the calming rhythms of the land—chores in the cow barn, haying the fields, tending their gardens—and in this they find immeasurable joy.

Soon their first child, Sonny, is born and Doris and Tup understand they are blessed. More children arrive—precocious, large-hearted Dodie and quiet, devoted Beston—but Doris and Tup take nothing for granted. They are grateful every day for the grace of their deep bonds to each other, to their family, and to their bountiful land. As they hold fast to this contentment, Doris is uneasy, and confesses, “We can’t ever know what will come.”

When an unimaginable tragedy turns the family of five into a family of four, everything the Senters held faith in is shattered. The family is consumed by a dark shadow of grief and guilt. Slowly, the surviving Senters must find their way to forgiveness—of themselves and of each other.

New York Times bestselling author Meredith Hall’s radiant debut novel is a study of love—both its gifts and its obligations—that will stay with readers long after the last page. With a rare tenderness and compassion, Beneficence illuminates the heart’s enduring covenants and compromises.

Critical Praise

“These voices from the past speak so clearly to our time, at a moment when many of us wonder whether we’ll lose the things that we consider blessings….Beneficence is a quiet but steady book, one that echoes ancient and important rhythms.”
The Washington Post (Full review)

“Powerful…Hall’s meticulous prose convincingly captures the daily realities—sometimes beautiful, sometimes cruel—of agricultural life, and offers insight into the ways calamity fractures family bonds…readers will be rewarded.”
Publishers Weekly 

“A quiet gem of a first novel. The author’s lyrical prose and stark portrayal of grief and guilt…is conveyed so movingly this story is hard to put down. With language poetic in its cadence and capable of seamlessly transporting our minds and emotions to another place and time, this accomplished debut will be welcomed by readers of authors such as Willa Cather, Alice Munro, Amy Tan, or Lisa See.”
Library Journal

Beneficence is a novel that considers grief, forgiveness, family, work, and love. Reminiscent of Wendell Berry and Marilynne Robinson, Hall’s writing is truly beautiful. We highly recommend you add Beneficence to your autumn reading list.”
—Literary North

“A powerful story of love and loss and endurance… Remind[s] all readers that love, memories and stories, and indeed language itself, can have transcendent, radiant, beneficent power—even over death.”—New York Journal of Books 
—New York Journal of Books (Full Review)

“[A] delicate, poignant novel…Spare but decked with moments of crystalline beauty, the book’s descriptions of farming the Maine countryside are authentic and enchanting. There are no ostentatious displays, and so the novel’s magnificence sneaks up in the same unassuming way that autumn sunlight spills across harvested fields, that sound breaks the silence of a heavy snow, and that the hidden barbs of loss present themselves across the years…[A] gorgeous and moving new novel.”
Foreword Reviews (Starred Review)

Beneficence is a novel that lingers, tucking details into its heavy folds…The weight of ache and grace that anchors [Hall’s] writing is still firmly lodged.”
—The Arts Fuse (Full Review)

“With lyrical precision, Hall dissects how grief reshapes each [family] member and pushes them into newfound territory. The result is a profoundly moving family saga that provides an engrossing reading experience.”
—Public Libraries Online (Full Q&A)

Beneficence is one of the best novels I’ve read all year, the perfect antidote to troubled times, beautifully composed and lyrically told. I cannot recommend it strongly enough.”
—Manhattan Book Review (Full Review)

More on Beneficence

Advance Praise

“This fiercely beautiful novel took hold of me from the very first page. Beneficence is at once a page-turner and an artistic triumph. Meredith Hall takes on the old universal truths, as Faulkner once put it: love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice. I loved this book, and will be thinking about the Senter family for a long time to come.”
—Dani Shapiro, New York Times bestselling author

“All novels are instruction kits for how they must be read. Meredith Hall’s novel Beneficence is forceful in this way and uniquely fruitful. Beneficence will remind a reader of Willa Cather in that it instructs us to savor life, to set aside our cold spirit, to notice human beings closely and tenderly, and to believe that telling life plainly is a virtue which can achieve beauty.”
—Richard Ford

Beneficence is amazing in its vision. Luminous. With wisdom and compassion, Meredith Hall writes about the capacity for atonement. Beneficence, then. Goodness. Generosity to see deeply, to live through fear and pain on your journey toward the awareness of splendor.”
—Ursula Hegi, New York Times bestselling author of Stones from the River

“In the style of Marilynne Robinson and Stewart O’Nan, Hall writes with quiet urgency, drawing us close to the broken heart of one family’s unspeakable loss. Hauntingly beautiful, emotionally devastating, and infused with great compassion, Beneficence shines a light on that liminal space between hate and affection, fate and freewill, mercy and grace–and the power we have to redeem or destroy those we love the most.”
Kim Barnes, Pulitzer Prize finalist for In the Wilderness: Coming of Age in Unknown Country

“An emotional journey so deep into the lives of others, you will find yourself, and the people you love, staring back with a face for each of Meredith Hall’s characters. One of the best books I’ve ever read, this quiet, family saga—a masterpiece of compassion and objectivity—has changed the way I see everyone around me, forever.”
—Simon Van Booy, winner of the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award

Beneficence is a beautiful novel, quiet and meditative, exquisite in its language, moving in its emotional reach. It delivers a particular time and presence—a Maine farm in the 1950s—with deep love and understanding. This book is like a communion with the land.”
—Roxana Robinson, award-winning author of Dawson’s Fall

 

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Meredith Halls memoir Without a Map was instantly recognized as a classic of the genre and became a New York Times bestseller. It was named Best Book of the Year by Kirkus and BookSense, as well as Elle’s “Readers’ Pick of the Year.” Ms. Hall was a recipient of the 2004 Gift of Freedom Award from A Room of Her Own Foundation. Her work has appeared in Five Points, The Gettysburg Review, The Kenyon Review, The Southern Review, The New York Times, and many other publications. Hall divides her time between Maine and California. More at meredithhall.org