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A Dual Inheritance

3.56  ·  Rating details ·  918 ratings  ·  174 reviews
For readers of Rules of Civility and The Marriage Plot, this engrossing, very smart novel about passion, betrayal, class and friendship delves deeply into the lives of two generations, against backgrounds as diverse as Dar es Salaam, Boston, Shenzhen and Fisher's Island. It is the most accomplished book-by far-of this prominent young author's career.

Cambridge, Massachusett
Hardcover, 472 pages
Published May 7th 2013 by Ballantine Books (first published January 1st 2013)
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Average rating 3.56  · 
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 ·  918 ratings  ·  174 reviews

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Jeanette (Ms. Feisty)
I made it almost to the halfway point, and then Hershon completely lost me. The first few chapters were promising. It seemed like it was going to be a sort of anthropological study using class-conscious characters. The more I read, the more it felt like the author had no idea what her purpose was in writing the novel. When I got to the chapters about the Wall Street chaos, it was so confusing and so far off the track from the original story that I just couldn't care anymore. ...more
Jessica Jeffers
Dec 26, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction, netgalley
I just can't with this book. The characters aren't interesting, the plot isn't interesting, the writing itself isn't interesting. Reading the first half has turned out to be kind of a chore and I think I'm throwing in the towel. ...more
Adelle Waldman
Mar 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A Dual Inheritance is the kind of novel you get lost in--it is a big, sweeping, involving drama full of vividly rendered characters whose fates you care about deeply. As I read, the real world faded. I wanted only to be in the fictional world that Hershon created.

The book follows a handful of characters from their undergraduate years at Harvard in the 1960s to the present day, moving along the way from New York to Africa to the Caribbean and back again, and growing to include the unfolding live
Feb 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: notable, netgalley
This is a very long book and it encompasses so much. At times it felt like the author was going off to confusing places but she managed to stay on track for the most part. I like how she focused on these two characters, Ed Cantowitz and Hugh Shipley, and followed them through their lives post-Harvard. I was curious at first to see whether Joanna Hershon would play off of the Harvard stereotypes or try to avoid them. I would say she did both. We have Ed, who is Jewish and comes from a family that ...more
David Kinchen
Jun 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
I've settled on my "beach read" book for 2013: Joanna Hershon's "A Dual Inheritance."

Hershon has written the kind of novel we've come to expect from Kurt Andersen, Tom Wolfe, Jonathan Franzen ("Freedom') and, of course Anne Tyler and Joyce Carol Oates: A sweeping, multi-generational book that explores class, job choices, love and marriage and what happens with the next generation. The kind of book Anthony Trollope was famous for in the 19th Century. My choice for a comparable Trollope novel: h
Mar 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
I am a sucker for generational novels--I like to see how the choices people make play out in the scheme of their lives--and the lives of their friends and family. To me, they seem more realistic. The story doesn't end with marriage, or with the guy getting the girl--it's more rewarding to see what happens afterward. A Dual Inheritance allowed me to see how two Harvard friends' lives came together, diverged, and came together again due to the choices they made. I especially enjoyed the moments in ...more
Jenni Buchanan
Feb 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
This book was one of my favorites of the past four weeks. Very grand in scope, but intimate in execution, A Dual Inheritance spans two families, three continents, and five decades, but it always manages to feel immediate and personal. It tells the story of Ed Cantowitz and Hugh Shipley, two very different young men who meet in college and become unlikely friends; the story then follows Ed and Hugh (and eventually each of their daughters) through the next 50 years as they chase very different dre ...more
Linda Dickson
Mar 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads. You instantly identify with both main characters, probably because we all knew someone like them in college. It is an intriguing tale of two college classmates who form a lifelong bond. The two have nothing in common, save that they are both on the social fringes of campus life for entirely different reasons. Ed, stout, short, rough around the edges and only in school through hard work and scholorships. . . Hugh, suave, tall, from a we ...more
Amanda Kay
May 27, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-2013
Disclaimer: I received this book as part of the Goodreads First Reads Giveaway. My copy is an ARC.

I'm not quite sure what to think of this book. On the one hand, Hershon has a nice writing style and pace and tells a good story. On the other, this is just another in a series of upper crust NY novels, all of which feature privileged people telling their stories and whining.

I think Hershon was attempting a love story for the ages, perhaps the way people can't let go of their first love. The result
Danielle Robertson
Feb 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013
This was a really wonderful and thought-provoking read. It presents a beautiful portrait of an unlikely friendship, and how that friendship grows, dulls, and rekindles. I began to think of the important relationships in my life; a book that allows you to reflect like that is certainly something special.
Aug 06, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: first-reads
I received A Dual Inheritance free through a Goodreads Giveaway.
The novel traces the friendship of Ed Cantowitz, a poor Jewish boy, and Hugh Shipley, a wealthy WASP, from the time they meet at Harvard in their senior year until they are middle-aged. There is a woman in the mix, too. Her name is Helen, and she is the third point of their romantic triangle. We follow all three of them as they embark on careers, relationships, and travel.
I am in the minority here, but I didn't think this book was s
Jan 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This sweeping, gorgeously-textured novel is the finest yet from Hershon, showcasing her unique ability to find grace and insight in the simplest of moments, the sparest of gestures. A Dual Inheritance traces the decades-long friendship between two vastly different men. Hugh Shipley is the diffident son of a patrician family who finds himself wandering through his four years at Harvard. Ed Cantowitz, the scrappy son of a former boxer and plumber, knows exactly what he wants: the world Hugh was bo ...more
Lara Kleinschroth
Mar 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
This book was sent to me for review by Netgalley.

We are all molded by two forces - our genetics and our environment/culture. To which extent either of these plays the greater role is the underlying theme of this intriguing and thought-provoking novel. Hershon performs an experiment with her characters - take two Harvard students from two different backgrounds in the 1960's, have them meet and become friends, then see where life takes them over the next 50 years. And how genetics and environment
Jul 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: africa
Reading the first hundred pages, I couldn't figure out what was going on, had trouble figuring out who the main characters were except Ed and Hugh (Is this a gay love story?) and what was the importance of Helen? Actually I could have cared less. I entertained abandoning the book which I never do. I stopped reading and looked at some of the reviews and identified with the negative ones. I then googled some professional book critics who gave the book a good review but stated it was a difficult re ...more
Feb 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
[This review can also be found on Bookwanderer!]

I've been trying to write my review of A Dual Inheritance, by Joanna Hershon, for a while. Not because I disliked the book (spoiler alert: I give it four out of five stars!), but because it spans so many characters, themes, and plots, it is hard to summarize and even harder not to spoil.

Here is the summary from Goodreads:

Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1963: two students meet one autumn evening during their senior year at Harvard--Ed, a Jewish kid on sch
This was one of those books that I'm not sure why I liked it, but knowing that I just do. At times, it left me a little confused as to what was being said (or in for the most part what wasn't being said). Perhaps it was Hershon's writing style that threw me off initially. It's been quite a while since I've come across a unique writing style like her's. It has a lyrical, casual tone where it feels like somebody was just casually telling you a story while hanging out. It was beautiful in that Hers ...more
Larry H
May 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
So many books have been written about friendships, particularly among those from disparate backgrounds. There's something so intriguing about two people who might not ordinarily even have known each other being drawn into a lifelong friendship. Such a friendship is at the core of Joanna Hershon's well-written A Dual Inheritance, but with an interesting twist—the friendship actually ends midway through the book, although the ripples of that relationship and its demise continue to be felt througho ...more
Sarah Miller
Aug 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
Ed Cantowitz and Hugh Shipley are introduced to readers as they’re introduced to each other – at Harvard in the 60’s. This novel is about their friendship, and its evolution, across time and the world. My initial reaction: another book about friendship. I found myself irritated at the relationship that developed between Hugh and Ed because their interactions seemed so intentionally off-kilter and ‘unique.’ Like I was being made (forced) to see just how odd and remarkable they were.

But, my final
Jan 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
See this review on

Because I read and write for various mediums, I tend to have 5-6 books waiting for me in the "queue." I usually need to read 2-3 at a time just to keep up, so when it was time for A Dual Inheritance, I booted up my Kindle and began. As I started Joanna Hershon's story, I found myself not wanting to change to one of the other books I was reading. This novel is layered beautifully, covers multiple generations, and begs to a
Sally Koslow
Aug 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
If you love a family saga--and I do--The Dual Inheritance will engage your interest and emotions from the very start. (Well, perhaps not the very start. I didn't get hooked for about thirty pages.) An unlikely friendship between Harvard students Ed Cantowitz, portrayed as a shrewd hustler who wants to "make a lot of dough" and Hugh Shipley, a Boston Brahmin whose family has had money for so long that Hugh is sick and tired of it, is the backbone of the story. The elegant Helen Ordway, who marrie ...more
Sandi Widner
Feb 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
5 out of 5 stars for "A Dual Inheritance" by Joanna Hershon

Autumn 1962: Ed Cantowitz and Hugh Shipley meet in their final year at Harvard. Ed is far removed from Hugh’s privileged upbringing as a Boston Brahmin, yet his drive and ambition outpace Hugh’s ambivalence about his own life. These two young men form an unlikely friendship, bolstered by a fierce shared desire to transcend their circumstances. But in just a few short years, not only do their paths diverge—one rising on Wall Street, the o
May 07, 2013 rated it liked it
This one reminded me of the family sagas I used to loan from our tiny smalltown library as a pre-teen. I don't know why exactly I read the same books as my mother, but I remember enjoying the drama and flair of these stories where wealthy socialites were always globetrotting or fighting one of the wars (usually the Second World War, sometimes the Boer war). They always had the self-made man, the tragic heir, and the independent young woman who defied conventions.

A Dual Inheritance follows this f
Apr 25, 2013 rated it liked it
This is the first book I have received as part of the Early Reviewers program at Library Thing in return for a fair and honest review. When I read the synopsis, I was so excited to start it.

The story follows the lives of two men from very different backgrounds who become improbable friends at Harvard in the 1960s. Hugh is from a wealthy, WASP, well known family and Ed is a poor Jewish boy from from Dorchester. These two become best friends in their senior year, and are joined by Hugh’s girlfrien
Jan 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-read
Just as "Ed Cantowitz found himself grabbing Hugh Shipley" by the arm in the opening paragraph of Joanna Hershon's latest novel, "A Dual Inheritance," the first page grabbed me and pulled me into the story of the relationship between these two Harvard students from different worlds. The story follows these two characters from their days as upperclassmen at Harvard in the early 1960s to the 2010 wedding of Hugh's daughter Vivi, whose closest friend is Ed's daughter Rebecca, a friendship which beg ...more
Sep 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
"Cambridge, Massachusetts 1963: two students meet one autumn evening during their senior year at Harvard--Ed, a Jewish kid on a scholarship, and Hugh, a Boston Brahmin with the World at his feet." The two become, despite their opposite backgrounds and Hugh's general apathy, fast friends. Of course, there is a girl involved, Helen who is Hugh's first love. The story line follows them through the completely different paths their lives take. Some of the plot is pretty predictable. What do think hap ...more
Mar 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library-thing
This was an interesting book about two young men, Hugh and Ed whose stories take us across their lives and their children. Hugh and Ed meet in college and are very different. Hugh comes from a privileged background and is suave and polished. Ed must fight and earn everything. They form a fast friendship and become close friends until one of them can no longer be friends without disclosing why. Each make right and wrong choices over the course of their lives that shape who they are and who their ...more
Apr 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
I read this as an ARC where I work at Barnes & Noble.

This is a love story, but also a story of love. In all its nuances. Love between/among friends. Married love. Love between parents and children. Forbidden love. And, then, the next generation discovers these feelings as though they were something new and original. Because they are. Children become friends. Get married. Have children.

The characters in this novel search for love. They are frustrated, but unrelenting. They make mistakes. They ar
Emi Bevacqua
Feb 22, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
Wholly contrived, ridiculously multi-generational schlock. And 472 pages of it at that. And yet the book jacket is basically covered with praise, none of which I remotely agree with.

Story is about Ed Cantowitz and Hugh Shipley, from vastly different social backgrounds, who meet their senior year at Harvard in 1962. Their brotherly love is triangulated by blue-blooded Helen; everybody marries and take hundreds of pages to two-dimensionally make their way through life and the world, then somehow
Hilary Reyl
Dec 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A Dual Inheritance is a sweeping book, stunningly true, human and humane. Joanna Hershon takes her reader along with her characters through lifetimes and generations such that she creates an almost Proustian sense of the passage of time. It is beautifully wrought and rich with fascinating, funny, devastating scenes. By the end of the book we are deeply nostalgic for the early pages. We long for the past - and cringe at the past - right along with the vibrant characters with whom we have been liv ...more
Violet Gonzales
Mar 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
I received this book through the Goodreads First Read giveaway.
This has been a very good read.Hugh and Ed are as unlikely to become friends as seems possible.Hugh is determined to get as far away from his life of privilege as he can. Ed,coming from a life of struggle will go to any length to become rich and powerful. Neither one seeming to feel they have done enough.Their lives gone in completely opposite directions,yet they both make disastrous decisions in relationships along the way.I was ves
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