Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O’Farrell

In the summer of 1976, when London is suffering through a record-breaking heat wave and drought, Robert Riordan, a retired London banker, walks out of his home one morning to buy a newspaper. When he does not return, he creates a crisis requiring his three adult children to return to the family home.  Although his wife, Gretta, claims he was happy in his retirement, his emptied bank account reveals his vanishing to be premeditated and of his own volition. The family is not close and the children each have their own troubling secrets. Michael Francis, oldest child and only son, is failing in his personal and professional life. Monica, the responsible, perfect daughter, has similar problems. And Aoife, the difficult, late-in-life baby, who went through childhood with undiagnosed learning disabilities, is hiding the fact that she cannot read from family, friends and employers.  Monica and Aoife also have a secret between them that has destroyed their relationship. And, obviously, Robert has a secret reason for disappearing. But, in the course of searching for some clue of why their father left or where he might have gone, the children discover that their parents have keeping the biggest, most astounding secret of all. Using the small bit of information they are able to glean from their mother, their search takes them to the family home in Ireland.  Here they find answers to their questions and, perhaps, solutions to their problems. In INSTRUCTIONS FOR A HEATWAVE, author Maggie O’Farrell is able to make the reader understand this dysfunctional family (disappointed mother, distant father, angry children). We pull for them to come together and overlook each other’s weaknesses.