In this tale of an American family's fortunes, journalist Janny Scott excavates the rarefied world that shaped her charming, unknowable father, Robert Montgomery Scott, and provides a look at the weight of inheritance, the tenacity of addiction, and the power of buried secrets.
It is often very funny, with some moments paced like a drawing room comedy ... There are some wonderful characters here ... Still, to concentrate on such things is to miss the point of this fascinating and judicious book ... as she moves through her family’s story The Beneficiary starts to resemble a quest, a search for something bigger than a factual answer to that reporter’s question ... This new work is inevitably more personal, but she never makes herself its focus. She concentrates on the family instead ... Nelson W. Aldrich Jr. called his 1988 account of his own family Old Money and parts of The Beneficiary offer a similar taxonomy, with Scott presenting herself as an anthropologist, defining the odd folkways of her tribe.
Flair is in the DNA. As attentive to outré details as to psychological turmoil, Scott makes the most of the suspense built into her story ... The bequest was brilliant: A man in unhappy thrall to a place lured his daughter further and further in—and she escaped with priceless insight into its, and his, hidden depths.