Reviewed by Gail Kaufman, for REEDSY DISCOVERY
MUST READ – 5 stars
Endearing and inspirational contemporary fiction. I would give this book more than five stars if I could!
The story begins with Bennett (Bennie) Hall at midlife when her personal sense of self and view of the world in general was bleak. She had just been let go from her job of 27 years, returning to a house that never felt like home. As Bennett attempted to brighten her life, literally and figuratively, she experienced a transformation, partly from circumstance, mostly from her own longing for human connection.
Bennett found the inner strength to put closure on her lonely upbringing and the love that never materialized. But she continued to succumb to the inner voice of negativity. Hesitant at first, Bennett formed friendships and discovered the self who had been suppressed by the darkness of her past. She surrounded herself with people who gave her every reason to shine, but was blind to the light within herself.
Irene Wittig does an outstanding job of character building, enabling you to find inspiration from a character’s growth and enlightenment. My favorite quote of the book:
Sometimes a tree needs to fall to make room for the sun to shine in.
I won’t ruin the ending for you, but suffice to say that it was perfect. The author’s technique of taking the reader directly from anticipation for what is to be to post-event spares you the mundane details without depriving you of buoyancy and cheer.
Themes include love, friendship and global travel. What I found most endearing and inspirational is the deep respect and joyous value for senescence and diversity. I recommend the book to anyone who perceives middle age as the beginning of the end. This story illustrates that your spirit of life is your vantage point, at any age.
Reviewed by Lesley Jones for Readers’ Favorite
5 star review
In The Best Thing About Bennett by Irene Wittig, Bennett Hall’s final day at Bancroft, Chandler and Co. may have gone unnoticed by her work colleagues, but she is determined to enjoy her early retirement now that she is no longer carer to her egotistical aunt. When Bennett discovers some old letters, she realizes that her kindness had been rewarded with the cruelest betrayal. As she tries to heal from the truth, a handsome widower, Dr. Joe Muir, and his two adopted children move next door. As Bennett tries to ignore her feelings for the handsome doctor, she soon discovers the children have an elder sister, Grace, who was left behind in Uganda. Bennett manages to overcome her ingrained lack of confidence in the hope she can reunite Joe’s children with their elder sibling and hopefully capture his heart. As Bennett arrives in Uganda, she realizes that the process of finding Grace and bringing her to the US is filled with danger and corruption. Bennett must now face her biggest fears if she is going to be successful in her mission.
The Best Thing About Bennett by Irene Wittig is such a beautiful story with many subtle but powerful life lessons weaved throughout. Bennett was the most amazing character; her kindness and selflessness toward others were unwavering. I also loved her high moral standards and this was highlighted in the presentation scene at Bancroft, Chandler and Co. I appreciated the detailed backstory of Bennett as this gave a great insight into her personality and view of the world. Although Bennett had some support from characters such as Jacob, Meyer Gold, and Mrs. McElroy, she seemed to be the emotional rock for everyone she met. There were so many strong and interesting sub-plots that supported the main storyline perfectly. The suspense and tension when she was in Uganda were superb and I found Bennett’s transformation from a woman filled with self-doubt to a courageous warrior absolutely wonderful. I also thought the scenes in Uganda highlighted the horrific living conditions and treatment of girls so vividly. There were some incredible scenes throughout the novel but the scene between Meyer and Bennett when they discuss regrets in life was incredibly emotional to read. The letter Meyer wrote to Bennett was beautiful and brought a tear to my eye. I thought the relationship between Bennett and Joe was endearing and was developed perfectly too. A highly compelling novel that will keep your interest until the final page.
Ashley P., Reviewer, NetGalley
Bennett is a character that resonated with me. It was a joy to read about her journey in finding happiness and finally living life. I picked this up because of the cover and was captivated by the story. It’s a fun read with a few tearjerkers. Maybe I’m just sensitive but I found myself crying a few times. Bennett is an easy person to root for and it’s nice to read about older heroines. I truly enjoyed this novel. It’s a reminder to take chances and that it’s never too late to turn things around.
Review by ChickLit Café
The Best Thing about Bennett by Irene Wittig is a literary treasure, such a sweet, delightful story of self-discovery. A power house of character and charm, this is a heartwarming novel about turning your life around and realizing it’s never too late to change.
The life of Miss. Bennett Hall has thus far been unremarkable, she has reached the ripe old age of fifty, and done nothing more than stumble through the years aimlessly. She was in love once, but somehow he slipped through her fingers. She might have had a promising career but instead she finds herself being made redundant. She has dreamed of adventures and visiting different countries, yet she’s never even applied for a passport. It is fair to say that her world has been a very dull shade of gray… until her aunt dies. As if she has been tipped off the edge of a diving board, Bennett suddenly finds herself falling into a new life. As she hesitantly moves forward she ends up with a new home, friends, job and the crème de la crème – a new neighbor, who with the aid of his two adopted children is about to turn Bennett’s life upside down – and the right way up. I think it might be fair to say that Bennett finally starts living, as she stumbles through the process of trying to figure out what ‘having a life’ is really all about. Going against every fiber in her soul, she thrusts herself forward into experiencing life, taking chances she would previously have shied away from.
Irene Wittig has crafted a beautiful, touching novel about a woman in her fifties who suddenly wants more from life. It is moving and thoroughly inspirational. Wittig’s writing is smooth as velvet and pulls you into her peaceful world, excellent narrative and fabulous story telling. Bennett is a character you will come to love and admire. Five+ stars. The Best Thing about Bennett by Irene Wittig is a delightful book which puts the true meaning into ‘happy ever after’ comes very highly recommended by Chick Lit Café.
Review by Diane Donovan — Midwest Book Reviews
The Best Thing About Bennett
Bennett Hall is taking early retirement against her will, but she’s prepared to make the move with good grace. She’s become “increasingly invisible” in her job anyway, so the move, after twenty-seven years with Bancroft, Chandler and Co., is not entirely unexpected.
Deemed professionally competent but socially incompetent, Bennett has persevered up to the point that her loyalty to the Company is rewarded by being let go, escorted out the door by a security guard.
Tired of the rat race of familiarity, Bennett decides to cultivate a quieter life. But fate intervenes to introduce her to handsome widower Joe Muir and his two adopted Ugandan children; and with this event, many new possibilities divert her from her plan of self-isolation and quiet living.
As Bennett absorbs the poignant story of his losses, his childrens’ trials and hidden fears, and how Joe came to end up in Wilmington, she is “shaken by the recognition of her own weaknesses” and comes to feel that her goals in life may be wider-ranging and more important than her quest to isolate and quietly vanish.
Bennett keeps secrets of her failures from Joe, yet continues to explore new possibilities that even lead to a new possible career. Her evolution will delight women who look for novels replete with growth and insights into how meaningful connections are formed in later life.
Irene Wittig is especially astute in following Bennett’s upward learning curve, showing how Bennett moves from a staid life to one in which risks are taken and opportunities are not only perceived, but grasped with both hands.
Bennett’s search for left-behind older girl Grace sends her to Uganda on a mission that is about redemption, resolution, and love. Her ability to move far past her carefully construed comfort zone to reach into the world results in rewards that introvert-type readers will especially appreciate for their challenges and difficulty.
Readers of women’s literature will relish this eye-opening saga of personal and interpersonal transformation.
Review by Eryn McConnell of the Book Dragon
Bennett is a middle-aged woman who has lived a very colourless life. We are introduced to her when she is made redundant from her job, a job that she was miserable in, really. She chooses to downsize and move to a smaller house, where she begins to open her life up, thanks to the people she meets. I absolutely loved this book.
The narrator style is an interesting one, almost archaic, and it is evocative to me of Alcott’s Little Women or L. M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables series. But it suits the book and it suits Bennett as a character. I wasn’t sure at the beginning if I would love Bennett, as she was so passive. But she developed and grew and I really found myself being so proud of her. The book travels from Wilmington over to Uganda briefly and back again, as Bennett embarks on a mission of mercy to save the sister of the children who are adopted by her neighbour. But the journey itself is within the people she gathers to her, who build a home in her life.
I highly recommend this. I think it’s a beautifully written, quiet story where a woman finds herself, love and her true calling later in life. I award 5 stars.