Publisher: Vintage Canada
Cynthia Holz's first novel with Knopf Canada is a spellbinding story that offers an intimate look at family, friendship and altruism, and unrolls a cast of characters you can't help but root for even as you question some of the things they do.

Dr. Ben Wasserman, an organ transplant psychiatrist, is having trouble assessing a would-be kidney donor who may turn out to be a bona fide altruist. But as his interest in the man grows, so do his professional and emotional conflicts. At the same time, Ben's psychologist wife, Renata Moon, is struggling to treat a phobic client whose husband died in a train crash. When the young woman reveals that she is pregnant, Renata's disappointment in her own childless marriage is triggered anew.

Ben and Renata work hard all day, then go home to squabble over the nightly take-out. It doesn't help to ease the rising tension in their marriage that Ben's widowed mother, Molly, has made her disapproval of her yet-to-be-pregnant daughter-in-law well known. Nor does it help when Molly takes in a boarder, a man from her past whose secrets threaten to complicate the family dynamics even more.

Benevolence is intelligent, amusing and deeply humane, a novel that asks unsettling questions, makes surprising connections and allows room for some unexpected, magical solutions.

From the Hardcover edition.


The temperature dropped,” Stella said, “and snow was coming down hard—no, not up or down, more horizontal— and snow was blowing up from the tracks.

Sometimes it was so thick all I could see was my reflection in the window, but every once in a while, when the wind changed direction, flakes...
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“Like Bonnie Burnard (A Good House) and Carol Shields (Unless) Holz ponders the nature and limits of goodness. . . . Holz demonstrates the link between literature and psychology. She employs stream of consciousness à la James Joyce—only in a modified, more accessible way. . . . Holz follows in the footsteps of Carol Shields.”
— National Post
“This new novel by Cynthia Holz offers that beautiful combination of tension and tenderness. . . . Holz is deeply skilled at conveying her characters’ emotional chaos. This isn’t a thriller by any means, but she knows how to make a reader feel very anxious.”
— NOW (Toronto)
"Cynthia Holz has a gift for ordinary trauma. In Benevolence, patients and equally frail physicians struggle to recover from life’s pain. More alike than they know, braver than they think, Holz's broken people tap into the mysterious interconnectedness that roots us under the surface."
—Marina Endicott, author of Good to a Fault

"Benevolence combines a deeply suspenseful plot with characters so vivid that I felt I might meet them at any moment on their way to a streetcar or a bar. Cynthia Holz writes beautifully about the longings and accommodations of middle age, work and trauma, poetry and gardens, and the possibility of altruism. The result is a wise and wonderful novel."
—Margot Livesey, author of The House on Fortune Street

From the Hardcover edition.