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A Dual Inheritance

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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, Massachusetts, 1963: two students meet one autumn evening during their senior year at Harvard-Ed, a Jewish kid on scholarship, and Hugh, a Boston Brahmin with the world at his feet. Ed is unapologetically ambitious and girl-crazy, while Hugh is ambivalent about everything aside from his dedicated pining for the one girl he's ever loved. An immediate, intense friendship is sparked that night between these two opposites, which ends just as abruptly, several years later, although only one of them understands why. A Dual Inheritance follows the lives of Ed and Hugh for next several decades, as their paths-in spite of their rift, in spite of their wildly different social classes, personalities and choices-remain strangely and compellingly connected.

472 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2013

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Joanna Hershon

8 books96 followers

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5 stars
140 (14%)
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397 (42%)
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289 (30%)
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78 (8%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 178 reviews
Profile Image for Jeanette (Ms. Feisty).
2,179 reviews1,909 followers
May 10, 2013
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.
Profile Image for Jessica J..
1,020 reviews1,963 followers
February 11, 2013
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.
Profile Image for Adelle Waldman.
Author 7 books274 followers
March 23, 2013
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 lives of their children. At the book's center is a love triangle that is gripping and believable without being at all sentimental: the desire to know how it will ultimately unfold for characters we have come to know so well makes it very difficult to put down the book.

Not only are the characters extremely well-drawn--like Jonathan Franzen's, they feel exceptionally vivid and lifelike--Hershon also renders the shifting social and historical context with great precision and intelligence. She writes with a seemingly effortless authority about everything from the changing racial demographics of Boston neighborhoods in the 1970s to the machinations of Wall Street financiers--but she never loses focus on her wonderful cast of characters and the personal dramas that drive the book forward.

This is a book that will be read with great pleasure by anyone who loves an old-fashioned, character-driven novel in the tradition of many of the most beloved nineteenth century novels. I look back with fondness on the weekend I spent lost in its pages and envy those who still have the pleasure of reading the book for the first time to look forward to.

Profile Image for Owen.
209 reviews
March 24, 2013
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 isn’t great but probably average. Then we have Hugh, who was born into an incredibly rich family. They become friends at Harvard and for the rest of the story; they enter in and out of each others’ lives.

A Dual Inheritance is very different from the types of books I usually read. I often read adult literary fiction but this book is so unlike all of the other subcategories of “literary” fiction. It felt as if the book wasn’t trying to be like other books or completely unique on its own either; it was just trying to tell a story. And I appreciated that.

I’ve never had any exposure to Hershon’s writing but I have to say that overall, I was impressed by it. The prose takes on a nonchalant attitude that does not mean uncaring, but simplistic. Despite the fact that the timeline was often interrupted and jumped around, I felt a connection to both Ed and Hugh. The two men are extraordinarily different, so the core of their friendship was at first difficult to find but they proved that over time, their relationship grew stronger.

One thing I liked about this book was the diversity of setting. Many people only stay in one location as they grow older but these characters traveled all over the world. From China to Africa, and Haiti to New York, each chapter of their lives was provided with a fascinating locale.

A Duel Inheritance rose above the expectations I had for it, but I did have a few complaints. Mostly, the length. At almost five hundred pages, this book is unnecessarily long. Usually what was occurring was important to the story but a lot could have been taken out. It took me a while to get into it but I eventually did, and I ended up reading the second half in one day.

This book is very American, and portrays the characters that attend one of the most prestigious colleges in the world. They go on to become very successful, and I think you will find that although they do well for themselves, they have their own human problems. Hershon did an excellent job portraying two men pursuing “the American Dream”.

*I received a free galley of this book from NetGalley for review, and I have to say that I was very impressed by the quality of the electronic version of the book. I did not catch any misspellings and it looked very clean and nice, no glitches that are common with Kindle versions of books.

Profile Image for David Kinchen.
104 reviews10 followers
June 15, 2013
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: his 1875 masterpiece "The Way We Live Now" with its plot of financial skullduggery and the clash of classes -- both essential elements of Hershon's novel.

It's autumn 1962 and two unlikely Harvard students meet and find common ground. Ed Cantowitz and Hugh Shipley meet in their final year at Harvard. Ed, from the heavily Jewish Dorchester district of Boston, 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.

Ed and Hugh develop an unlikely friendship, reinforced by a shared desire to transcend their circumstances, but complicated by their rivalry for the affections of Helen Ordway, whose parents have a home on Fishers Island, part of New York state but just offshore of Connecticut in the Long Island Sound. (The parents of "Mad Men" character Pete Campbell, played by Vincent Kartheiser, have a summer home on Fishers Island). A few years after their "cute meet" at Harvard their paths diverge -- Ed rising on Wall Street thanks to his friendship and mentorship with Helen's financier dad, and Hugh becoming a global humanitarian with medical clinics in Tanzania. The book's title could just as well be "A Duel Inheritance," because of their clash over the love of Helen, who ends up marrying Hugh after a brief affair with Ed.

"A Dual Inheritance" is sprawling in its scope, spanning from the Cuban Missile Crisis which begins as Ed Cantowitz and Hugh Shipley meet to the 2008 stock market collapse, with locations as diverse as Dar es Salaam, Boston, Shenzhen, and Fishers Island. "A Dual Inheritance" follows not only these two men, but the complicated women in their vastly different lives. And nobody is more complicated than Ed's and Jill's daughter Rebecca, unless it's Hugh and Helen's daughter Vivi, who are best friends. Their friendship is the link between Ed and Hugh, however tenuous and frayed it is at various times up to the novel's end on Fishers Island in 2010 when everybody meets to celebrate Vivi's wedding.

It didn't take me long to become absorbed by the characters in "A Dual Inheritance" and I think many readers looking for a big book to sink their literary teeth into will be similarly addicted. In addition to the authors mentioned above, think Nancy Thayer and Meg Wolitzer.
Profile Image for Lindley.
266 reviews8 followers
March 27, 2013
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 the novel when Ed paused to consider how his life could have played out differently if he had taken a single different action at that moment. It was also rewarding to see how Ed, Hugh, and Helen's choices ultimately shaped the lives and personalities of their children and sent them in unforeseen directions. I enjoyed following the lives of Hershon's characters and would agree with the comparison to the Marriage Plot, especially in the novel's final pages.
Profile Image for Jenni Buchanan.
243 reviews25 followers
February 13, 2013
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 dreams, meet with great success, terrible ruin, and discover—after each trying to abandon the legacy of their family and their past—that family is, after all is said and done, the only constant, and the only relief we have. A Dual Inheritance is a love story of epic proportions. Hershon’s prose is perfectly suited to the story, and her characters are a perfect and refreshing balance of good intentions and human frailty.
Profile Image for Linda Dickson.
23 reviews1 follower
April 2, 2013
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 well-heeled family and never had to worry about grades or the money to stay in school. The story follows their lives, loves and families over several decades, through interesting twists, turns, downfalls and hard learned lessons. You will find this one hard to put down.
Profile Image for Amanda Kay.
368 reviews2 followers
May 27, 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 is a rather boring story that spans nearly half a century and never has a climaxing point.

I'm not even sure I can say anything else about this book. It's an okay read, a bit boring, but not terrible. In the end, I just felt like it was "there."

2.75/5 stars.
Profile Image for Danielle Robertson.
Author 1 book19 followers
March 2, 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.
77 reviews15 followers
August 9, 2013
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 so hot. It was trying to be a sweeping saga of a friendship over the course of many years, but I found it cliched and a little tiresome. I couldn't feel that sympathetic toward any of the characters.
Neither Ed nor Hugh were particularly likeable, and I felt like both of them were caricatures of what they should have been. That is to say that I think the author was trying to be deep, but I don't think she was.
Also, there were some odd plot twists that did not feel natural at all. And events that I would expect Hershon to linger on (i.e., Ed meeting his wife and their marriage), were mentioned almost in passing, while she would spend more time on more minor events.
All in all, I would not recommend this book. It could have been good, but it was just okay.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
Author 8 books338 followers
January 31, 2013
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 born into. The two form an unlikely alliance, with Hugh serving as Ed's moral compass and Ed helping Hugh find motivation and purpose. Hershon recreates both their worlds--and that of 1960's Cambridge--with beauty and gentle humor, and then follows each man as their paths dramatically diverge after graduation. She explores their foibles and successes, their loves and indiscretions as they extend from Africa to Asia to Shelter Island--ultimately to be picked up by the daughters of both man, who form an unlikely alliance of their own. It's a sumptuous feast of a book, one that for me evoked Roth, Cheever and Styron at their best. Read it, and you will both lose and find yourself.
Profile Image for Lara Kleinschroth.
88 reviews7 followers
March 11, 2013
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 then also mold the lives of their daughters. No matter how far and for how long life may take us, some things inevitably circle back. With characters thoughtfully and lovingly led down their respective roads, and with subtle attention paid to detail in each time period and place, Hershon draws an intricate map of our time.
Profile Image for Lynn.
3,205 reviews56 followers
July 31, 2017
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 read. I had trouble believing it and felt nothing for the book but tried again. I was interested in the countries and peoples of Africa so that kept me going. And I began to know and fall in love with the novel. I became fully invested in the story and it's end. Two men, graduates from Harvard take two very different turns. Ed, who came to Harvard on academic merit and scholarships, and Hugh, a legacy entrant whose family has lost money but has an d name. It is Ed who is ambitious and heads towards Wall Street, and Hugh who skips classes and chases girls, until being inspired by Anthropology and Film school. Hugh heads to Africa and later Haiti running clinics after seeing Nuer in Ethiopia suffering with smallpox and hearing the filmmaker he's working for, say he won't help because he wants to film Africans in their natural state. The central character is Helen, (a model for Helen of Troy?)who is engaged to and marries Hugh, but spent a two night stand with Hugh. The men have wives and children but Helen seems to the key for these men to hold it together. In the end, I not only loved the book and the writing, I went back and read the first 200 pages so I could get clarification during a time when I was totally confused. This novel is well worth the time and I really admire it.
Profile Image for Taryn.
74 reviews28 followers
April 15, 2013
[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 scholarship, and Hugh, a Boston Brahmin with the world at his feet. Ed is unapologetically ambitious and girl-crazy, while Hugh is ambivalent about everything aside from his dedicated pining for the one girl he's ever loved. An immediate, intense friendship is sparked that night between these two opposites, which ends just as abruptly, several years later, although only one of them understands why. A Dual Inheritance follows the lives of Ed and Hugh for next several decades, as their paths-in spite of their rift, in spite of their wildly different social classes, personalities and choices-remain strangely and compellingly connected.

I'm a sucker for collegiate settings, and though we are only at Harvard briefly, I think Hershon does a commendable job using it as a backdrop to the relationship between Ed and Hugh. College is a period where people from disparate upbringings and backgrounds interact, often for the first time, and appropriately, Ed and Hugh could not be more different. However--as again often happens in college--the two become intensely close friends, each grappling with their own similar emotional 'inheritance' from their parents.

This section especially reminded me of The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides--and I mean that as a compliment, as I enjoyed both of these books. Both have young people trying to define themselves, their relationships, and their aspirations; A Dual Inheritance focuses more on the impacts, intentional and otherwise, that parents have on their children. It also lacks the pretentiousness that some found so distasteful in The Marriage Plot; indeed, people are consistently and realistically dealing with their weaknesses.

As the boys grow up, they drift apart thanks to some poor decision-making late one night, and from that point on, the book follows their separate journeys. While Ed does eventually come to achieve the success he has always wanted, his relationships suffer. Hugh, on the other hand, is able to lead the morally-upright life he sought, but finds himself compromising his own integrity personally and professionally.

Then we meet each man's child, and watch as the cycle of inheritance starts all over again. What do we pass on to our children, consciously and unconsciously? How much of our personality is learned and how much is bred? These questions propel this second generation's act forward, and it is surprisingly uncertain, even at the end of the book, what the answers are. I really liked that.

And sure, while there are a few moments that might stretch your disbelief--that Hugh's and Ed's children not only attend the same boarding school, but manage to become friends, for example--they are easily overlooked due to the real and raw emotion that Hershon elicits from these characters. I empathized with each character in turn, and even saw a bit of myself reflected in each one. Hugh's desperation to do measurable good in the world; Ed's need to rise above his humble origins; Ed' daughter's all-consuming drive to achieve that ends up leaving her unhappy.

This is a lovely piece of literary fiction, particularly if you are interested in the idea of children trying to find identities separate from their parents, and I highly recommend it.

I received this book free for review from Ballantine Books through Netgalley. A Dual Inheritance will be available for purchase on May 7, 2013.

Bookwanderer Rating: Four out of five stars
Bookwanderer Tagline: TBA
Other Reviews: Publishers Weekly, 1776 Books, The Reader's Commute
Profile Image for Leslie.
588 reviews38 followers
August 2, 2013
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 Hershon manages to say as much as was needed to say, but it carried such meaning and yet left you feeling there was more beyond what was said.

I found it interesting how the story of Ed and Hugh unfolded throughout the years, even managing to have their lives intersected indirectly through their daughters, Rebecca and Genevieve (aka Vivi) respectively. Looking back on the story, it seemed so seamless how Ed and Hugh became friends despite the differences in their background. Somehow it just worked. Their unlikely friendship becomes even more pronounced when you examine them in their separate lives with their different natures, without having communicated with each other to decades.

I thought it was fascinating to see their daughters, in a way, repeating their own lives, having become friends in spite of their different upbringings without having any knowledge of the relationship between their parents. I enjoyed reading how their fathers influenced their personality, seeing a bit of their fathers in them, not just in personality traits, but in personal situations (i.e. Rebecca's long time obsession over ViVi's father Hugh just like her father Ed having carried a torch for ViVi's mother Helen over many decades) And then over time, seeing them exhibit tendencies found in the other's father.

The oldie but goodie plot point of best friends (Ed and Hugh) being in love with the same girl (Helen) is employed in the book. But it wasn't the focal point of the story. Like everything else in the book, it simmered beneath the happenings of the book. It never really goes away, but you sense that it hovers over our main characters and has influenced over their actions.

The one thing I was bothered with the book was the lack of a real resolution. I don't have a problem with open ended conclusions. But with this book, I didn't feel like I was left with a concrete roundup of what has happened in the book. Therefore, I didn't have a clear feeling of either optimism or pessimism or hope or fear like I do with others with open-ended endings.

Regardless of that issue, I enjoyed reading A Dual Inheritance. I imagine it's the kind of book one takes on a long road trip. You have the time and can sit back and just read the story of these 2 different and yet connected men through their lives. This is the type of book you can relax to and let yourself go.
Profile Image for Larry H.
2,484 reviews29.4k followers
June 6, 2013
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 throughout the remainder of the story.

Brash, self-deprecating Ed Cantowitz, a child of the middle-class suburb of Dorchester, Massachusetts, meets Hugh Shipley, the privileged heir to generations of Boston Brahmins, in their senior year at Harvard in 1962. Although they come from different backgrounds and have different views of the world, Hugh doesn't dwell on their differences, although Ed is fixated on them. Ed is driven to make a name for himself in the financial world, while Hugh seems more than content to avoid all responsibilities that await him, as he would rather travel to Africa and be a photographer. Even Hugh's relationship with Helen, although he loves her very much, doesn't fuel him with the fire to act.

As Ed pursues his financial career with unbridled zeal, Hugh travels first to Ethiopia, where he works on a film crew, and then to Morocco, where he begins to become a global humanitarian, using his family's fortunes to set up health clinics. And while the two continue to have little in common, their friendship flourishes—until one moment when everything changes and their relationship ends, for reasons only one of them understands.

This is a sprawling book that switches between Ed and Hugh's perspectives, as well as those of other characters. It spans a period of time from Ed and Hugh's first meeting to an encounter in 2010, and follows the characters across the globe, through times of great success and happiness as well as times of despair. It's a tremendously compelling story in spite of the fact that I never really cared that much for the characters, especially Ed, as I felt so much of his personality was abrasive, although as the book unfolded, you understand much of what fuels him.

How are we shaped by our friendships? Do they continue to affect us even once they've ended? Joanna Hershon does a terrific job in exploring these questions, creating complex (and flawed) characters and a narrative that never loses your attention, and may even move you. (It did me.)
40 reviews1 follower
August 2, 2013
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 reaction: this is not another book about friendship. It really is unique, and an engaging read at that. After Hugh, a young man from family wealth, travels to Africa, the novel picked up the pace. The tone, though, was a bit heartbreaking. Hugh realizes his desire to film life in Africa isn’t as he expected, and Ed takes major risks to make the money, lots of money, that he always said he wanted to earn. As they reach middle age and beyond, these men are not who they – or readers – expected them to be. When their friendship dissolves, uneventfully but markedly, readers can only understand it because of Hugh’s laid back attitude. Or, maybe, because friends drift apart.

Their daughters, Vivi and Rebecca, meet at boarding school and their paths, briefly, cross again. Vivi and Rebecca remain friends for years, and Hershon fast forwards to nearly present day when all the characters gather for a wedding. Here, decades later, Hershon ties all the loose ends together in a way that is both satisfying and relieving, even if readers are a bit disappointed in the way Hugh and Ed have developed.

This is a book I’ll recommend to friends, always with the explanation that the beginning is not an indication of how the rest of the book unfolds… to my relief, anyway. I’d give it seven out of ten stars.
Profile Image for Kelly.
374 reviews15 followers
February 16, 2013
See this review on 1776books.net...

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 answer the question "Why do we let perceived slights keep us from holding onto relationships we were meant to have?".

Ed Cantowicz and Hugh Shipley are two schoolmates from opposite sides of the track who quickly become friends. When Hugh's ex-girlfriend, Helen, re-enters the picture, Ed understandably is the third wheel; that feeling quickly dissipates, however, and the three become practically inseparable. As the reader is introduced to the main characters' families, she learns that Ed and Hugh have widely different goals in life. Hershon then moves onto Ed and Hugh's wives and children, skillfully showing that the connection between these two men will never end, whether they want it to or not.

While at times a little slow, A Dual Inheritance is at its best when it focuses on Ed and Hugh. Even while they are apart (even living on separate continents), the reader knows that they (and their secrets) will eventually meet up again.

Profile Image for Sally Koslow.
Author 9 books301 followers
August 19, 2013
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 marries Hugh, rounds out the cast as the plot takes readers from Cambridge, Fishers Island, Manhattan's boardrooms and Park Avenue co-ops to impoverished communities in Africa and Haiti.

In the hands of a novelist less gifted than Joanna Hershon, this could be a banal book. Ed and Hugh might easily be crafted as offensive stereotypes--the hard-drinking WASP whose looks outdo Robert Redford; the crude, striving, insecure Jew who obsesses about deal making and food. Coincidences on which the plot pivots--after the fathers' friendship unravels, their daughters become best friends at boarding school!--might seem contrived. But Hershon pulls it off. You care about the lead characters, whose flaws enhance them, to the point that if you are a woman reader, you're a bit in love with both. Helen and her daughter, on the other hand, are less developed. I would have liked more insights into what they thinking and feeling, so I could care as much about them as I did Rebecca Cantowitz, Ed's complicated, endearingly contemporary daughter.

I will be telling my friends to read his novel.
Profile Image for Sandi Widner.
104 reviews
April 2, 2013
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 other becoming a kind of global humanitarian—but their friendship ends abruptly, with only one of them understanding why.

Can a friendship define your view of the world? Spanning from the Cuban Missile Crisis to the present-day stock market collapse, with locations as diverse as Dar es Salaam, Boston, Shenzhen, and Fishers Island, A Dual Inheritance asks this question, as it follows not only these two men, but the complicated women in their vastly different lives. And as Ed and Hugh grow farther and farther apart, they remain uniquely—even surprisingly — connected.

Dear Readers: Sharply observed and masterfully constructed, Hershon’s fourth novel is her strongest yet; a deft and assured examination of ambition, envy, longing, and kinship. The characters in this novel are fully realized, the story moves along at a fast pace, and the author is well informed about her subject. Highly recommended!
Profile Image for Bibliophile.
781 reviews73 followers
July 16, 2013
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 formula fairly closely (skipping the wars), and it's not a bad thing if you're in the mood for a sweeping, old-fashioned tale of two generations of rich people. Awkward and overbearing Ed, the most vividly portrayed character, isn't rich to begin with but makes a fortune and literally saves Wall Street. Hugh, the disgruntled pretty boy whom Ed befriends at Harvard in the 60's, has the privilege of not caring about his pile of money and instead travels to Africa to save the third world, providing us with lots of exotic locations. Helen, the rich and beautiful object of desire never fully comes to life. The younger generation, daughters Rebecca and Vivi, are doomed to repeat their parents' mistakes but also get to make a few of their own.

This is competent storytelling, but the characters were a little too sketchy to hold my interest, and it appears the old lure of the glamorous family saga has worn off for me.
Profile Image for Kerri.
108 reviews1 follower
May 2, 2013
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 girlfriend Helen to become an inseparable threesome. I really enjoyed the first half of this book, especially the descriptions of Harvard, and the beach house on Fishers Island. As the characters left college and moved on with their lives, the tone of the story seemed to change. I felt the main characters were becoming desperate and very depressing. It wasn’t until the later part of the book, where the Hugh’s and Ed’s daughter meet in boarding school and become best friends, that I regained interest.
I though Joanna Hershon’s writing was very good, and did enjoy reading it, but not as much as I had hoped.
113 reviews
January 27, 2013
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 began at boarding school, long before the girls realized their fathers had been close friends in college. While exploring the challenges of relationships (friendships, marriages, parent-child), the novel also addresses issues of social class and religion, unearned vs. earned privilege, and the pressures one feels to choose an ethical path when a more tempting alternative is present. I'm so glad I received this book as a Goodreads first read gift that has introduced me to a wonderful author with whom I was not familiar. I will definitely read Hershon's other books.
Profile Image for Tara.
15 reviews6 followers
September 22, 2012
"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 happens with Helen??? However it's not your typical happily ever after ending. I found myself wondering in the end if either of these men really lead a successful life. The characters are complex and fully fleshed out and that is what makes the book worth reading. I am looking forward to seeing what everyone else thinks....
Profile Image for Mary.
629 reviews
April 29, 2013
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 children become.

The characters are engaging and you find yourself drawn into the story both cheering on and hating the characters respectively.

A great generational story and engaging story. Would make for an excellent book club selection.

Reader received a complimentary copy from the Library Thing Early Reviewers program.g
Profile Image for Lynn.
1,242 reviews
April 30, 2013
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 are confused and confusing.

Ed searches for success. He grew up poor, and now wants to "make a lot of dough". Is this a substitute for love? Hugh and Helen have loved since they were in school together. Ed thinks they don't care about money because they have plenty of it.

And, in the end, we all search for, and some of us find, that which makes us whole.
Profile Image for Emi Yoshida.
1,469 reviews84 followers
February 23, 2014
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 unbeknownst to anybody, they have daughters who become best friends and make all the same insipid decisions that their parents had plus hundreds more; and none of the so-called twists actually provide much suspense or drama. My eyes ache from such constant rolling.
Profile Image for Hilary Reyl.
Author 4 books77 followers
December 29, 2012
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 living so fully. This is the rare book that is at once compulsively readable, totally compelling, and a tour de force.
15 reviews
April 17, 2013
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 vested in the characters from page one and never lost interest. I will look forward to more books from Joanna Hershon.
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