Open Road Media; August 6, 2013
eBook; 593 KB (or 272 pages)
Finalist for the National Book Award: On the verge of receiving a vast inheritance, three brothers’ clashing aspirations turn into an all-out warBrothers Leo and Max Land came to America from Romania in 1911, but they took different paths in pursuit of the American dream. Even as they worked together, Max sought out material things while Leo made a simple, private life for himself. Now, after the death of both brothers, Leo’s three sons—the only surviving heirs—learn that they stand to inherit a fortune. As they battle for control, they come to expose their own deeply complicated visions of success in America. The Will is a stunning portrait of American idealism crushed under the weight of material desires.
Open Road Media has published The Will by Harvey Swados (As well as Going Away) as part of "The Essentials" - a selection of National Book Award finalists and winners currently being released as eBooks. Originally published in 1963, The Will is a character study of a dysfunctional family dealing with the death of the two family patriarchs in such rapid succession that a will has not been located. By all appearances there is a family fortune in a house full of collectibles (think Hoarders) and real estate, albeit in areas that would be defined as slums.
One brother, Ralph, is returning home for his father's funeral (although he skipped his uncles funeral, held just a week before). He wants to find the will, quickly settle the estate and leave. The only problem is his youngest brother is a recluse, living in the attic of the house, never venturing outside. The oldest brother, is in areas unknown, perhaps incarcerated. Problems abound when Ralph stays, and has his girlfriend come out to help. They marry and stay at the house, trying to go through the mountains of stuff looking for a will, while Ralph wants nothing more than to force Raymond out of the attic, get his inheritance and leave. Raymond, however, has his own ideas and wants any inheritance to be distributed equitably.
Swados was a part of the New York intellectuals and the writing is intelligent. The actual plot is slow moving since any development is established more by dialog than action and Swados has his characters propel his themes forward through dialog. Chapters are all told from the point of view of one of the characters. Savvy readers will catch the references to The Brothers Karamazov in The Will.
Harvey Swados is also remembered for his concern that the introduction of pocket-size books, paperbacks, would result in a “flood of trash” that threatened to “debase farther the popular taste."
Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Open Road Media via Netgalley for review purposes.