A Dual Inheritance

  • Review
By – April 30, 2013

As Ed Can­towitz grabs the arm of fel­low Har­vard senior Hugh Ship­ley in the first para­graph, my atten­tion was grabbed for the full length of this nov­el. These two stu­dents who are at stereo­typ­i­cal oppo­site ends of the social spec­trum in 1962 Boston, become insep­a­ra­ble friends. Ed is an out­sider, an orphan, son of a box­er — a loud Jew on schol­ar­ship from the wrong side of town. He is embar­rassed by his back­ground, but also proud and focused on work­ing hard to achieve his high goals. Hugh is of Boston Brah­min stock, aris­to­crat­ic-look­ing but apa­thet­ic, thumb­ing his nose at his rich her­itage. Both men yearn to break free of their roots, yet through the telling of their life sto­ries, we learn how deeply they are each defined by their backgrounds.

The two embark on vast­ly sep­a­rate paths. Ed is upward­ly mobile in New York City’s finan­cial world while Hugh is off to some of the most down­trod­den places on earth. Ed harsh­ly breaks off his friend­ship with Hugh ear­ly on but their lives con­tin­ue to be inter­twined through their daugh­ters until the present day. Though still con­scious of their class dis­par­i­ty, Rebec­ca Can­towitz and Vivi Shi­pley are able to sus­tain a more even, gen­uine friend­ship than their fathers ever could.

This book delves into themes of loy­al­ty and betray­al, long­ing and regret, jeal­ousy and obses­sion, birthright and ambi­tion. Her­shon rich­ly describes so many set­tings and emo­tions. She takes us from the prep­pi­ness of Harvard’s cam­pus to the dumpy home of Ed’s wid­ow­er father to a high end art-filled New York City apart­ment, to the for­eign­ness of Shen­zhen, to the over­whelm­ing beau­ty of Lake Tan­ganyi­ka, and the com­fort­able opu­lence of an old fam­i­ly home on Fisher’s Island. The author real­ly gets the read­er into her two main char­ac­ters, Ed and Hugh. It was sur­pris­ing how much I could enjoy these two men who seemed so real despite their exag­gerated neg­a­tive per­son­al­i­ty traits. I would have liked the sto­ry to con­tin­ue just a lit­tle bit longer…

Miri­am Brad­man Abra­hams, mom, grand­mom, avid read­er, some­time writer, born in Havana, raised in Brook­lyn, resid­ing in Long Beach on Long Island. Long­time for­mer One Region One Book chair and JBC liai­son for Nas­sau Hadas­sah, cur­rent­ly pre­sent­ing Inci­dent at San Miguel with author AJ Sidran­sky who wrote the his­tor­i­cal fic­tion based on her Cuban Jew­ish refugee family’s expe­ri­ences dur­ing the rev­o­lu­tion. Flu­ent in Span­ish and Hebrew, cer­ti­fied hatha yoga instructor.

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