Written by Meredith Hall
Review by Lorelei Brush

Beneficence is the emotional journey of the Senter family, who live on a farm in Maine in the 1940s and 1950s. It begins with stories of this happy troop of five as they face the challenges of life for a family with three young children. Farming is not an easy occupation, as everyone has chores, and the work is never done. Their blunders are treated empathetically, giving the reader a compassion for their foibles and a belief in the love they share. In the same mode as Kent Haruf and Marilynne Robinson, the setting is alive, almost another character. Unfortunately, a major catastrophe hits the family as their oldest child dies. The reactions of the parents, sister, and brother are very different, yet succeed in driving the family apart.

Part of the joy of reading this book is figuring out how the title will play out in the action. A beneficent act, of course, is one that has the welfare of the participants as a goal. It is kind and charitable. As the Senter family members stumble through their grief, one has the sense that the author is fully exploring the notion of what it takes to atone for one’s mistakes and forgive each other for them. Hall writes in the full consciousness of the difficulties of these actions and how everyone involved is changed in the process.