"To understand what it meant to be a Hathaway, you'd first have to see Aurelia."
For generations, Aurelia was the crowning glory of more than three thousand acres of Iowa farmland and golden cornfields. The estate was a monument to matriarch Lavinia Hathaway's dream to elevate the family name - no matter what relative or stranger she had to destroy in the process. It was a desperation that wrought the downfall of the Hathaways - and the once prosperous farm.
Now the last inhabitant of the decaying old home has died - alone. None of the surviving members of the Hathaway family want anything to do with the farm, the land, or the memories.
Especially Meredith Pincetti. Now living in New York City, for seventeen years Lavinia's youngest grandchild has tried to forget everything about her family and her past. But with the receipt of a pleading letter, Meredith is again thrust into conflict with the legacy that destroyed her family's once-great name. Back at Aurelia, Meredith must confront the rise and fall of the Hathaway family... and her own part in their mottled history.
This is the story of a big family in a small town and the farm they built, Aurelia, as seen through the eyes of Meredith, the youngest grandchild, recounted through her own memories and the memories of other family members as they told them to her. Meredith fled Aurelia when she was seventeen and never looked back. She's spent the past twenty years distancing herself from that part of her life, even going so far as to change her name. But then a letter arrives informing her of the death of her cousin Cal Jr. Cal had inherited Aurelia and left no heirs, so the farm is going to be sold to pay off its debts. The thought of Cal triggers emotions in Meredith she'd thought long dead, and as the ghosts of the past return to haunt her, Meredith feels compelled to return to Aurelia once more before the sale to attempt to make her peace with it, and maybe even to bridge the chasm that separates her from her two older sisters, who have also put Aurelia behind them.
And so begins the tale of Lavinia Hathaway, a woman who desperately wanted to be more than she was, and who became so adept at manipulating the people around her to achieve her goals that she created a small empire, and a family and a life to be proud of, but in the process led to the downfall of nearly every member of her family over the course of three generations. Through good times and bad, war time and peace, tears and laughter, the details of the Hathaway family emerge in all their beautiful, awful glory.
I really liked the way this story was told, with memories of memories and differing viewpoints of events, so that the reader can never be too sure how reliable the information is, but gets the sense that the overall gist of the story is true. There are some really complex characters in the story and I think Davy does a fantastic job of portraying the varying degrees of human nature realistically and creating empathy, even when they're not pretty. There's also an element of suspense throughout as Meredith leads up to revealing the details of the incident that caused her to leave Aurelia, and while it's pretty easy to guess what it is, the final revelation in the very last scene of the book puts a different spin on it and in that moment, that one phrase made what had been an enjoyable read, a memorable one. I'm still thinking about it days later.
My Rating: 4 Stars out of 5
The Legacy of Eden is on a blog tour and all of the blogs are participating in a Scavenger Hunt!
My part of the hunt will be revealed on February 14th. By following along with the hunt you'll get a sneak peek at the first chapter of The Legacy of Eden and get the chance to win your own copy! And Nelle Davy will be here on the 25th with a guest post!