The Gilded Leaf

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Dick Reynolds (son of tobacco magnate R.J. Reynolds) died in 1964, leaving behind a will which would eventually become the inspiration for THE GILDED LEAF. In effect, the will disinherited all six of Dick’s sons by naming his fourth wife, Annemarie, sole executor of his estate. Eleven years later, the Reynolds boys were invited back to their father’s onetime home in order to place bids on his personal items, which were otherwise to be sold at auction. Patrick, Dick’s youngest son, was incensed by the notion of having to pay for what he believed to be his rightful inheritance. He did not believe that his father would, of his own accord, disinherit his children. Patrick also became distraught as he began to think back on the secrecy that surrounded his father’s death as well as much of the family history. As a result, Patrick embarked on an in-depth study of three generations of Reynoldses, despite the “emotional pitfalls” which he imagined would be encountered in such a search.

Based in part on personal letters, papers, and journals, THE GILDED LEAF nevertheless reads more like a novel of the kiss-and-tell genre than the family history that its authors wish it to be. This method of storytelling does not lend itself to credibility, and although the reader may walk away from the book with an intimate knowledge of the suicides, divorces, and alcohol-and-drug-related problems of the R.J. Reynolds family, any otherwise pertinent information is lost.