Monday, March 24, 2014

Instructions for a Heatwave, by Maggie O'Farrell

I am going to have to start writing down where I saw a book recommended because too many of the recommendations I am following up on are disappointing. Instructions for a Heatwave is the latest case in point. It is the story of an Irish family living in England, except for the youngest daughter, who has "gone off the rails" to live in New York. One morning in the midst of a summer 1976 heatwave, Robert Riordan goes out to buy a newspaper and doesn't return. Soon, Robert and Gretta's three adult children return home to help Gretta figure out what happened to their father. None of the three are happy in their lives--Michael Frances, a high school teacher, has cheated on his wife, who now seems to be turning away from him; Monica is a housewife feeling out of place with her second husband, an antiques dealer who resists her desire to update their farm house; and Aoife (pronounced Ee-fa), who hides the fact that she cannot read because of undiagnosed learning disabilities. Aoife and Monica do not speak because of events that happened three years previously.  As the children and their mother argue and yell while trying to figure out where their father and husband has gone, family secrets come spilling out.

Aoife was an interesting character, but the rest of the family members felt like trite stereotypes. Nor did the situation or family dynamic seem fresh or enlightening in any way.

Not recommended.

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