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Book Review

Feb 2, 2012
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‘The Legacy of Eden’

Courtesy of Beaverdale Books

Reviewed by Catherine Rihm

By Nelle Davy

Mira Books



384 pp

Nelle Davy’s debut, “The Legacy of Eden,” portrays the story of the Hathaways, a multi-generation family living together on the grounds of their expansive Iowa estate, called Aurelia. Once prosperous and envied, the farm — along with its house, gardens, and fields — has declined to a state of ruin by the end of the century.

The family is decimated, too. The last heir to the farm has died and lawyers dissolving the estate have conjured Meredith in their attempts to find a living family member willing to deal with the remains of Aurelia. Having left the farm as a teenager, Meredith has been living in New York to escape Aurelia and her memories of growing up there. Compelled to return to the farm, Meredith confronts the ravaged land and the ghosts retained therein — we learn much of the history of the family through her.

Her grandmother, Lavinia, was responsible for creating the renown of Aurelia and bringing it to the magnificence it held at its peak. Through dishonorable means of deceit and emotional haranguing and finagling, Lavinia built Aurelia to its glory only to see it destroyed by those same machinations.

If you are looking for an inspiring tale illustrative of what it was like to grow up on a farm in Iowa during the 20th century, reach for Mildred Armstrong Kalish’s memoir, “Little Heathens.” Otherwise, Davy’s new novel will provide an engrossing tale of family drama within the confines of an Iowa farmstead. Though melodramatic at times, the intense, well-described characters in “The Legacy of Eden” will drive readers interest. CV

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