In the beginning of this historical tale that spans the years between the 1960s to the Millennium and beyond, we meet a man with the unlikely name of Heck Hellman. A kayaking adventure and a tragic drowning set the scene for the unfolding legacy and drama of this character’s progeny EV Hellman and her mother Mei-Mei.
The backdrop of this tale is a school in Cape Wilde, headed by Goddard Byrd (known as God) that plunges us into another kind of legacy: the private educational system in New England, and how legendary moments like the first (accidental) admission of a black female to a previously all-male school further impacts the heritage of this somewhat arrogant, didactic male head.
Daughters of the Revolution is not one of those coming-of-age boarding school stories, but instead, it digs deep beneath the surface details of lives and spotlights an historical era. Shifting perspectives reveal the tale, and the language in which it is told is brilliant in the way that it describes and dissects the characters. They are humorous in their humanity, with all their flaws put on display.
As “God” heads toward the end of his life, he reflects about death. “Toward morning, he dreamed of death. He found himself unprepared, having forgotten to bring a pair of socks from his top drawer, where his good nine-toed wife used to tuck them, rolled up into themselves. And so he had to stand barefoot in purgatory with other forgetful old men. What a disappointing end. He’d imagined light—if not a blaze of glory, a small persistent glow.”
Moments like these are showcased throughout, reminding the reader that real-life human thoughts and feelings emanate from the characters, who are truly “alive” on the pages. This short tome was full of such moments, and although it sometimes jumped sporadically between characters and time periods, it was quite enjoyable. Four stars.