Benevolent: A Novel

Devon Threvarrow Flaherty
Owl and Zebra Press (2013)
ISBN: 9780988965102
Reviewed by Jennifer Hass for Reader Views (2/14)

“Benevolent” by Devon Threvarrow Flaherty is a story with many characters, one of them being Gaby LeFevre, who grew up in the 80s and 90s.  I can totally relate to and vibe with Gaby since I grew up in the same timeframe. Gaby is a humanitarian looking to save the world - one person at a time!  Her heart is golden and she is very smart, often making her friends look at her like she is crazy because she spends so much of her time at the soup kitchen.  Insert Mikhail, the boy who buries road kill and refuses to eat meat.  Mikhail meets Gaby at one of her gigs where she encourages him to help her handing out pamphlets. The young guy is infatuated with Gaby but much too shy to ever admit it out loud. They become best friends over the years, but all the while Mikhail holds back his true feelings for Gaby. She just wouldn’t understand - or maybe she would reject him.

John and Mercedes, another set of characters in the story, are beloved story tellers, and some of the stories they tell are quite hard to believe.  They are an older couple determined to keep the stories alive and pass them down to as many people as possible.  Each character has their own piece of the story and as the novel progresses we begin to wonder if the fairy tales told about the Queen are more than just figments of their imagination.

 It is very hard for me to articulate how I feel about “Benevolent” without contradicting myself or seeming harsh. There are numerous characters throughout the story and with character development taking up most of the book I found it hard to keep interested.  I pushed through hoping that after about 100-150 pages I would come to a realization and that “ah ha!” moment. It never came. While the flashbacks are necessary to fully understand what is to happen, I kept having the same feeling of boredom.

I found “Benevolent” to be written with such passion I was sure I would have walked away with lingering feelings. The book is written and edited very well, however I had a hard time figuring out where the storyline was. With all of the character development, there was dialog that helped but in the end, I didn’t have much to take away when I was done reading.

The writing style of Devon is beautiful, very artistic.  I really wanted “Benevolent” to catch me and take me away somewhere, but half-way through reading  I found myself lost and unsure of where the storyline was going. There is a huge part of me that hopes I just missed something along the way and that someone else can find it. I realize that not every book will appeal to every person and I feel that “Benevolent” was just not my style.  My intentions with this review are not to deter anyone away from reading it themselves as it really just comes down to the matter of personal taste. 

The sneak peek into Flaherty’s next book really intrigued me. I am looking forward to seeing what else she has in store for us. Her vivid imagination and attention to detail really make for a wonderful novelist.

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