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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Instructions for a Heatwave: A Novel

I want nothing in life more than a beautiful book. I had that in Maggie O'Farrell's lovely Instructions for a Heatwave.

It's  a hot July day in 1976, and London is the midst of a heatwave. Robert leaves for the store and doesn't return. His wife, Gretta, is at a standstill while her children gather around her from as far away as New York City. She holds on to a secret that might lead them to Robert, yet if she shares it will change everything. Her children, estranged from her and from one another, must rally together and look past their own difficulties in life to band together for something bigger than themselves. 

So I don't know how I managed to gloss over O'Farrell's first five books, but shame on me. This book was as lovely as floating on a cloud, unsure of your direction but with a willingness to go along for the ride. O'Farrell's story doesn't cover a lot of time, but she packs it full of familial revelations that are game-changers. Nothing blows up; these are revealed with a certain grace and unfolding that resembles an out-rolling carpet.

There is a certain amount of grace to O'Farrell's prose that reminded me of a well-trained ballet dancer. If you are looking for a well-written book that will keep you involved and mesmerized, this was that very book for me. The characters were created with such layered depth that it seems almost easy to write them off until you realize how simply complicated they are--just like most people I know. It becomes hard not to root for them, and for the Riordan clan overall. After a while you realize that finding Robert is secondary to the healing that must happen both between family members and internally as well .

Kindle version on left, hard copy on right.

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