For readers of Rules of Civility and The Marriage Plot, Joanna Hershon’s A Dual Inheritance is an engrossing novel of passion, friendship, betrayal, and class—and their reverberations across generations.
Questions and Topics for Discussion
1. Compare the changes in Murray Cantowitz’s neighborhood and in Fishers Island throughout the four parts of the novel. Why is this difference important? How does this dichotomy relate to larger themes of the book?
2. Discuss Connie’s role in the novel. What does she symbolize for Ed? Why is she important?
3. How are Rebecca and Vivi similar to their parents? How are they different? Does their resemblance to their parents remind you of anyone in your life?
4. Photography is a recurring theme throughout the novel. How does it connect the characters? What else connects the characters throughout the generations in the story?
5. Why is the scene where Hugh cuts o! his “ngers so striking for Rebecca? What do you think about their relationship?
6. There are a few points throughout the novel where Ed realizes that, depending on his actions, his entire life could have evolved differently. What are these points? Do life-changing moments exist in your life?
7. On page 33, the president of the club tells Hugh “man is tribal.” Do you agree? Why or why not?
8. For years, Ed continues to love Helen despite all odds. Do you think this type of prolonged unrequited love is possible? What does it mean that Ed is able to cut Hugh out of his life, but not his love for Helen?
9. At the end of the novel, we learn that Rebecca and Vivi have found out about Ed and Helen’s relationship. Do you think that Hugh ever learns the truth?
10. How different are Hugh and Ed from the beginning to the end of the novel? How do they change, if at all?
11. If you had to write a sequel, what would happen next?
12. Of all the themes in the novel— friendship, upbringing, family, love, etc.— which resonates the most with you? Why?
13. After reading this novel, how important do you think inheritance is? What are your thoughts on dual inheritance theory? Have Ed and Hugh challenged your understanding?