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An unforgettable narrative—from the New York Times bestselling author of Hamnet—of a family falling apart and coming together with hard-won, life-changing truths about who they really are.
“Strange weather brings out strange behavior.” London, 1976. In the thick of a record-breaking heatwave, Gretta Riordan’s newly retired husband has cleaned out his bank account and vanished. Now, for the first time in years, Gretta calls her children home: Michael Francis, a history teacher whose marriage is failing; Monica, whose blighted past has driven a wedge between her and her younger sister; and Aoife, the youngest, whose new life in Manhattan is elaborately arranged to conceal a devastating secret.
In a story that stretches from the Upper West Side to a village on the coast of Ireland, Maggie O’Farrell explores the mysteries that inhere within families, and reveals the fault lines over which we build our lives.
Don’t miss Maggie O’Farrell’s new novel, The Marriage Portrait, coming in September!
When Gretta Riordan's husband, Robert, disappears during the 1976 London heatwave, her three grown children return home for the first time in years. All are dealing with personal crises that inform their relationships with each other and are tied back to their family history. The oldest, Michael Francis, is trying to keep his marriage together as his wife yearns for independence, and his two sisters, Monica and Aoife, have been estranged for years over a bitter secret that led Aoife across the ocean to New York, where she has made a life for herself while hiding her illiteracy. Under the stress of searching for their father and enduring the unbearable heat which causes people to "act not so much out of character but deep within it" the siblings and their mother are forced to confront old resentments which bubble to the surface. O'Farrell skillfully navigates between past and present, as family secrets are revealed and old grudges are hashed out, without ever losing the narrative's pace. An absorbing read from start to finish, through O'Farrell's vibrant prose, each character comes alive as more is revealed and the novel unfolds.