October 19, 2021
Today I talked to Meredith Hall about her new novel Beneficence (Godine, 2020).
A beautiful family is torn apart by a shocking loss, and three of its members blame themselves. It’s the middle of the twentieth century, their farm in Maine needs tending, and the seasons move swiftly with specific chores and tasks. The cows need calving, the chickens need feeding, the laundry needs washing, the rugs need airing, the food needs preparing. But each member of the family is numb from their huge loss, and they go their separate ways, telling small bits of the story as their lives unfold. Their dreams and hopes change, and some decisions have harsh consequences, but slowly, through the changing seasons, they struggle to make their way back to the family they once loved.
Meredith Hall taught in the MFA program at the University of New Hampshire for many years. In her late fifties, she wrote an essay that won the Pushcart Prize, and on the basis of that encouragement, she was awarded the Gift of Freedom Award, which provided two years of dedicated writing. Her memoir Without a Map was named a best book of the year by Kirkus and BookSense and was both a NYT bestseller and an Elle magazine Reader’s Pick of the Year. She was a recipient of the 2004 Gift of Freedom Award from A Room of Her Own Foundation and her work has appeared in Five Points, The Gettysburg Review, The Kenyon Review, The Southern Review, The New York Times, and many other publications. Hall writes while listening to Gregorian chant, and when she is not writing or reading, she is outdoors, finding beautiful wild places. She spends her time in Northern California and Maine, so beauty is available all around her, vital sustenance. She loves and needs the arts and spends each winter in the Bay Area gorging on performances of contemporary dance, modern and classical music, and drama. She wanders museums and galleries a lot. Her family and friends are at the center, always.