When they meet in the 1930s, Doris and Tup's love is immediate. They marry quickly and Doris commits to the only life Tup ever wanted: working the Senter family farm, where his parents and grandparents and great-grandparents are buried under the old pines. When an unimaginable tragedy turns the family of five into a family of four, everything the Senters held faith in is shattered.
... what impresses most is the patient, unforced manner with which she delineates her story of tragedy and gradual renewal. Naturally and ineluctably, like a river finding its way to the sea, the characters drift into lives that are unrecognizable from what they intended for themselves ... the counterweight to the grief that besets Beneficence is the profound satisfaction the Senters take from their daily labor on their land. This is also a finely observed novel of chores and routines and seasons, and of the sense of agency that can be reclaimed through the 'covenant' of work. As organically as it traveled to heartbreak, Beneficence progresses to the place of wisdom that lies beyond it, where we learn that a home is part of the 'vast world of innocence and harm,' not an island beyond it.
[A] powerful story of love and loss and endurance ... Doris’s voice is almost silenced for many pages. When she does speak, the powerful, authentic rendering of depression is almost painful to read ... Hall’s simple, profound tale and clear prose is particularly reminiscent of the quietly rendered life cycles and enduring relationships (and the plain, beautiful writing) in another book, also set on a Maine farm: E. B. White’s children’s classic Charlotte’s Web ... transcendent.
The narrative resembles a meandering, obstacle-strewn river, flowing around outcroppings until those outcroppings become part of them ... Hall maintains a consistently elegiac tone, even as the perspective shifts from one family member to the next. This heightens the poignancy of the pain they’re all going through, and it reminds us that even when one person takes center stage, the others still exist ... These voices from the past speak so clearly to our time, at a moment when many of us wonder whether we’ll lose the things that we consider blessings, like civil rights ... a quiet but steady book, one that echoes ancient and important rhythms.