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The Legacy of Eden

The Legacy of Eden

4.0 5
by Nelle Davy

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For generations, Aurelia was the crowning glory of more than three thousand acres of Iowa farmland and golden cornfields. The estate was a monument to matriarch Lavinia Hathaway's dream to elevate the family name—no matter what relative or stranger she had to destroy in the process. It was a desperation that wrought the downfall of the


For generations, Aurelia was the crowning glory of more than three thousand acres of Iowa farmland and golden cornfields. The estate was a monument to matriarch Lavinia Hathaway's dream to elevate the family name—no matter what relative or stranger she had to destroy in the process. It was a desperation that wrought the downfall of the Hathaways—and the once-prosperous farm.

Now the last inhabitant of the decaying old home has died—alone. None of the surviving members of the Hathaway family want anything to do with the farm, the land or the memories.

Especially Meredith Pincetti. Now living in New York City, for seventeen years Lavinia's youngest grandchild has tried to forget everything about her family and her past. But with the receipt of a pleading letter, Meredith is again thrust into conflict with the legacy that destroyed her family's once-great name.

Back at Aurelia, Meredith must confront the rise and fall of the Hathaway family…and her own part in their mottled history.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Davy’s melodramatic debut traces the rise and fall of Aurelia, an Iowa farm where the Hathaway family enjoyed financial prosperity and suffered personal ruin. Meredith Pincetti, née Hathaway, returns to Aurelia long after it’s gone fallow (to exorcise her family’s ghosts) and recounts the legacy of her spiteful grandmother Lavinia, who engineered the farm’s spectacular ascension and the family’s explosive disunion. “Rotten seeds make diseased trees,” Lavinia once said, describing a fate she set in motion with her scandalous marriage to Cal Senior. Lavinia pledges her loyalty to Aurelia by ritually spilling her blood on its soil, and has her children and grandchildren do the same, yet her cold-blooded mind games lead them to desecrate the land with stunning acts of malice, depravity, and destruction. Rage drives Cal Senior, his son, and his grandson to drunken violence, while Lavinia, her stepdaughter, and her granddaughters channel their anger into emotional treachery. Despite the novel’s clumsy expositions, Davy’s characters are lively and engaging. However, given that the Hathaway men’s brutality is pardoned, while the women’s emotional transgressions can’t be forgiven, the novel’s moral universe proves troubling. Agent: Davey Literary & Media. (Feb.)

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To understand what it meant to be a Hathaway you'd first have to see our farm, Aurelia.

If my family's name is familiar to you, it may be that you have either already seen it, or at least know something of its reputation. In its day our farm was notorious for being one of the most prosperous estates in our county in Iowa. An infamy only surpassed in time by that of the family who owned it.

I have spent the past seventeen years trying to forget it, forget my family and forget my past. For seventeen years I was given a reprieve, but after that length of time, you stop looking over your shoulder and you forget how precarious your peace is. You take it for granted; you learn to bury your guilt and then you convince yourself that it will never find you.

And then he died.

My cousin Caledon Hathaway Jr. left this earth in late October at the age of forty-five. The cause of death was cirrhosis of the liver. As seemed to be the curse of all Hathaway men after my grandfather, he would die young and alone and how he was found I do not know: he lived with no one and by then Aurelia had ceased to be a business and had become merely a vast space of withering land. Though a notice was placed in the local newspaper, his death was mourned by no one and his funeral attended only by the priest and an appointed lawyer from the firm who handled our family's assets. His body rested in the ground, at last unable to hurt or harm anyone else, and that should have been the end of it.

But then eight months later, at ten to three on a Thursday afternoon, I received a letter. I settled into my armchair next to the window, my hands still stained with streaks of clay from the morning's work in my studio. Ever since I left art school I have dedicated myself to sculpture, though it has only been in the past five years that I have made a decent enough living from it in order to do it full-time. Before that I was like any artist-cum-waitress, come every and any menial job you could find. I don't earn much but I get by and as I fingered through the array of bills and fliers, the stains of my morning's endeavors trailed across the envelopes until I came across a stark white one, different from the others in its weight and the crispness of its paper. It bore the mark of an eminent law firm whose name seemed familiar to me, but I thought nothing of it and slit open the mouth of the letter with my finger. Why wouldn't I? I had forgotten so much—or at least I had pretended to.

By the time I had finished reading it, the damage had been done. I looked up from the typescript to find my apartment an alien place. Sunlight was streaming through the windows and reflecting off of the counter surfaces and wood floors.

I could feel a prickle of sweat on the back of my neck and my mouth tasted hot and sweet with what I realized was panic.

I rushed to the bathroom and was violently sick.

Pushing myself upright I brought my hands to my face and then ran my fingers through my hair, clawing the strands back from my forehead. I caught sight of my phone and even though my stomach was filled with dread, I had to know, I had to know if they have been told. The letter said that they had tried to contact other members of the family. Who else, who else? I closed and reopened my eyes but it was no use. As soon as I began the thought, they swam across my vision, the living and the dead, diluting the reality of my kitchen with memories I had striven to bury for nearly two decades: my grandmother in her caramel-colored gardening gloves pruning her roses; my father throwing water over his head to cool himself off so that his great mop of blond hair slicked back, grazing the top of his shirt; Claudia in a white two-piece with her red sunglasses; my uncle Ethan shaking a cigarette out onto his palm from a pack of Lucky Strikes. I leapt away from the counter and ran into the studio. I darted around my sculptures to my desk and rooted through the drawers until I found the battered Moleskin address book and flicked through the pages until I found her number.

Where would she be now, I thought as I dialed her number? Is she even home? I knew she had gone part-time at the clinic since she had the girls, but I don't know her shift schedule. But my thoughts were abruptly cut off as she picked up on the fourth ring.

"Hello," she said, slightly breathless.

I opened my mouth to speak.

"Hello?" she said again.

There was a pause. I pictured her hanging up. "Hel—"



Our voices overlapped. She withdrew. In the interim I somehow managed to ask, "Ava?"

She was shocked. I heard a sharp intake of breath. I said her name again.

"Meredith," she said finally and then sighed with impatience. I wound the telephone cord around my finger at that and squeezed.

"Can you talk?" I asked


"I thought you might have been at the clinic. I wasn't sure if you were in."

"I just finished a shift."

"Are the girls around?"

"I'm alone, it's okay."

I closed my eyes and swallowed.

"Good, I—I need to talk to you. It's—"

"Is this about Cal Jr.?" she asked abruptly.

My eyes flew open. I felt winded. My voice, when it came out, was harsh, animal.


"The family lawyers called me."


"A few days ago."


"Same reason I suppose that they contacted you."

"They did not call me," I said, looking down at the letter, which was crumpled in the fist of my hand. "They wrote instead."

"I told them straight out I didn't care. Not about him dying, not about the farm or how he had driven it so far into the ground it was halfway to hell. They talked about my 'responsibility.' I told them I had done above and beyond more than my duty by that place."

I bit my lip so hard I thought I tasted blood.

"I suppose I was a bit harsh," she said reflectively, "but I got the feeling that they would just keep calling if they thought they could get anywhere. I guess that must have been why they tracked you down." She paused. "Have you heard from Claudia? Do you know if they contacted her, too?"

I thought about our eldest sister, probably dismissing shop assistants with a bored wave of her hand in some mall in Palm Beach.

"No, but she has a different name now. She's married."

"Did not stop them from getting to me. Or to you, or don't you go by our mother's name anymore?"

I swallowed hard at the reproach. "No, it's still Pincetti."

She snorted. "And there was once a time when Hathaways were crawling out of our ears, now none to be found. I suppose I was the first person you rang when you got the letter, was I? I am so touched. I wonder why that would be?"

I closed my eyes, blocking out the orchestra of sounds from the taxis and crowds on the road below and the various cacophony of voices that rose in a fog from the streets. I forced my mind to blank, to hold my breath in my chest, to keep everything still.

"So you knew then?" I somehow managed. For a moment I thought she had gone, as there was only silence and then, "Yes."

I digested this. "I see," I said and I did, with painful clarity. This was a mistake.

"I told them I didn't want anything to do with it," she volunteered. "They could do what they wanted." She gave a small laugh. "They even asked me about funeral arrangements. I told them the only way I would help would be if I could make sure he was really dead."

I winced. I hate this side to her, especially because I am part of the reason why it is there.

"It's all gone you know? The farm…" she began. "In the end it was riddled with debt. They're going to sell it, did you know that?" She stopped and when she began again, her voice broke. "It was all for nothing and she'll never know it."

There was a pause.

"What will you tell them?" she asked eventually. "Huh?"

"What will you do?" Her voice was careful, deliberate, and I realized with a small shiver that I was being tested and that she had no expectations that I would pass.

"I suppose I will have to call them."

There was a silence. There was nothing for a moment; just a blank and then when she next spoke her voice had degenerated into a repressed scream of fury.


This time I spoke without thinking, so that what I said not only surprised me because of my daring, but also because it was true.

"I guess I'm just not ready to walk away yet."

Even to my mind they were an interesting choice of words. They hung there in the silence between us. I waited for her to speak and I could tell even in the pause how much she wanted to attack me, to use my words as a noose and hoist me up, legs kicking, desperately searching for ground.

"I have to go. I need to pick up the girls," she said.

All of a sudden I was exhausted. It would never end, I thought. There was still too much damage left to inflict. I had long since ceased to engage in this trading of blows. I had marked her once and that was enough. Nearly two decades later it was still pink and raw, but she was not yet finished.

"I'll call you back," she offered.

"Okay," I said and we hung up. Even as we did so I knew she wouldn't call back. As if we were still children, she spoke again in code, a code she meant for me to decipher:

You did not do as I expected. You failed me—again.


Meet the Author

Nelle Davy was raised in London, England, in an Afro-Caribbean household. She is an undergraduate of Warwick University and has a master's degree from Trinity College Dublin in creative writing. She is married and still lives in London, where she works in publishing. The Legacy of Eden is her first novel.

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The Legacy of Eden 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
janesquires More than 1 year ago
A book of how Lavinia Hathaway becomes married to Cal and runs the family farm. After Cal's Dad dies, he marries and his sister lives with him to help run the family farm. His brother leaves because his Dad gives Cal more than him. All the bad things that happen to members of the family. How a Mother controls this farm and everything connected to it. She will stop at nothing to keep control of the farm. Her granddaughters have all left the farm. So when their Uncle dies, they are drawn back to go through their Mother and Father's things. They must face the ghosts of their past and come to peace with it all. Normally this would not have been a book I would have read. So I was surprised I really enjoyed it immensely. It will keep you reading.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was interesting, but very dark.
csingh More than 1 year ago
The Legacy of Eden is Nelle Davy's debut book, and it's a doozy, defying categorization. It's a melange of a saga, Gothic, and historical novel about a family named Hathaway that owns a farm called Aurelia in Iowa. This farm is neglected and run down and the last person who willfully owned up by being from there has died. What's happened to cause what's left of the Hathaway family to turn its back on Aurelia? Meredith, a granddaughter of the Hathaway family has not been back in almost 20 years, but then something calls her back. This book is a complicated one. Because it contains a little from different genres, it makes for an interesting read. Upon starting the book, I was really impressed with the opening chapter and introduction to Meredith and extremely curious as to what had happened. Upon further reading, the book became no less interesting, but it did get darker. And it was slightly difficult to understand where the narrator was getting their information from. But besides that, the book flowed smoothly and quickly. It was sad to see the tragedies that had befell the family, some by accident and others by their own making. But if you're in the mood for something different, this book is perfect!
Humbee More than 1 year ago
"The Legacy of Eden" is nothing short of a mesmerizing novel. Once engaged, I couldn't stop reading it if I wanted to. Every word must drip from Nelle Davy's illusionary pen like silver. She is a word spinner--simply captivating and crushing your psyche from one sentence to the next. Her writing abilities are staggering. And this grotesque, family dynasty novel is of the best kind, reminiscent of Steinbeck's "East of Eden," and Jane Smiley's "A Thousand Acres." I expect great things from Nelle Davy's book and from her in the future. Primarily this is a novel written from the perspectives of women. Women are complicated beings to begin with, and Nelle Davy creates her Hathaway characters with such complexity of feeling and depth that you can only believe they lived and breathed and acted just as she writes about them. For instance, Lavinia Hathaway, the damaged, psychotic and destructive matriarch of the family is so malevolent, she's difficult to comprehend without having inside information into her evil plots and manipulations. She's a triumph of a character! And, she is the center from which the story works. A vicious, devious, controlling woman who was the snake in the garden of Aurelia's eden, she orchestrates the demise of her family for several generations. What a villian. This is an amazing accomplishment by an author. I've read so many books, and Lavinia is one of those similar to classical literature characters who you just don't forget. "Hatred--it always comes down to that, doesn't it? But I've found that it's always at its most potent when it's laced with love." Lavinia Hathaway. Meredith, the narrator and youngest of the three girl grandchildren of Lavinia, tells the story of their home, Aurelia, the farm that nurtured the Hathaway family for several generations. Like most family homes, it embodied the tragedies and dark sides of the family while it sustained them, and held them together in a dance macabe. Aurelia was the beautiful and the ugly...the harmful and the heart of their lives. Memories were made there and those memories for good and for bad are what "The Legacy of Eden" is about. Meredith also tells the intimate stories of each family member through the life details of her sisters, her grandmother and her aunt. Nelly Davy takes simple tableaus such as the dinner table and creates powerful family scenes that crackle with the friction and horrors of a powder keg ready to ignite. She can make a subtle flick of a child's tongue over her teeth, and the gentle clatter of a tea spoon on a cup at the perfect moment in her dialog, send shivers through you. Nelly knows family dysfunction and she can dish it out in perfect cadence with her imaginative writing. It's just amazing to read.
Tanya2011 More than 1 year ago
This book was quite entertaining. It is about a family and generations of secrets.