A young woman discovers what lurks beneath the system that anointed her among the best and brightest of her generation.
Laura, a student from a modest background, escapes her small town to join the ranks of the academic elite on a Weatherfield fellowship to study at Oxford University. She enthusiastically throws herself into her coursework, yet she is never able to escape a feeling of unease and dislocation among her fellow chosen “students of promise and ambition.”
Years later, back in the United States with a PhD and dissertation on Henry James, she loses her job as an adjunct professor and reconnects with the Weatherfield Foundation. Commissioned to write a history for its centennial, she becomes obsessed by the Gilded Age origins of the Weatherfield fortune, rooted in the exploitation and misery of sugar production. As she is lured back into abandoned friendships within the glimmering group, she discovers hidden aspects of herself and others that point the way to a terrifying freedom.
Benefit is a vivid story of personal awakening that offers a withering critique of toxic philanthropy and the American meritocracy.
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“Phillips’s assured debut novel blends a complex journey of personal realizations with insights into the dark side of ambition and power.”