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At the beginning of Gail MacMillan’s book, The Inheritance, Allison Armstrong is in New Brunswick for her grandfather’s funeral. He was a man well-loved in his community, and respected for his commitment to the environment, which he preserved and helped others appreciate, on his property named The Promise.
At the funeral, Allison sees Heath Oakes for the first time in ten years. He's the son of the Lodge’s cook and housekeeper, and her grandfather’s camp manager. She dislikes him intensely but is attracted to him physically. Where she thinks he’s arrogant, considering his “position,” Heath thinks she’s a snob, and is blatant about it.
Although he is dead, it is Jack Adams, Allison’s grandfather and Heath’s benefactor, who actually plays the largest part in the book. Everything that happens is because of events he set in motion, and it is his value system and dream that Allison runs from and Heath defends, in the story.
When they find that The Promise is left to both of them, the battle truly heats up. She wants to sell. She’s just graduated from college and has plans for a life in Toronto. Heath wants to keep the property, to carry on her grandfather’s legacy.
Together they fight rumor, myth and a common past that has affected both of them. She first suspects that Heath had something to do with her grandfather’s death — he was with Jack when it happened — but later comes to see that the love, trust and faith her grandfather placed in Heath made him a man to be proud of. One she could love. Can she also discover the love for the land that her grandfather tried to instill in her?
I wanted to love this book. Ms. MacMillan did a wonderful job of bringing the New Brunswick countryside to life. Her love of the wilderness and its importance in our lives came through with shining clarity. Descriptions of the North Passage River and the area it passes through came to life for me, making me want to go to New Bruswick and see it all for myself.
By the same token, her characterizations of Heath Oakes and Allison Armstrong were well done. Heath was a good hero. The trials he overcame in life made me want to hug him. His patience with Allison was great. Especially since I thought he was right about her. She was a snob. Long after she should have realized Heath was a man, and not the boy who had once frightened her, she clung to her misconceptions. Beyond the point where it was amusing, beyond being annoying, to the point of irritation, she clung to those misconceptions. Since she did finally see the light, all is forgiven, but by the time she got there I had lost some of the glow.
It is unfortunate that the book suffered from some poor editing in the form of many errors. Misspelled words, incorrect usage and bad punctuation were distracting as I tried to immerse myself in the wilds of eastern Canada. It’s too bad, because The Inheritance holds lessons we can all learn from.