41AV8nGySqLIn the summer of 1976, during a heatwave that has gripped London, Gretta Riordan’s husband Robert goes off one morning on an errand…and disappears.

The event will bring Gretta and Robert’s grown children back to the homestead. Michael Francis, from his wife and children; Monica, from the countryside where she lives with her second husband Peter and his two children; and unexpectedly, Aoife, the youngest, who has been living in New York for years.

A convergence of the siblings will resurrect old rivalries, secrets, and hostilities. What secret has Aoife been hiding all these years? And why is Monica, the favorite, harboring such ill will for her younger sister, while sporting a “holier-than-thou” attitude? And what has happened to derail Michael’s marriage, even as part of him longs for an escape route?

The characters came alive on the pages, from perpetually loyal, yet flawed Michael and good-girl Monica, to the misunderstood Aoife, who has no trouble challenging the others when they constantly exclude her from almost everything. We come to know each of them as they tell their stories from their perspectives, in the third person narrative.

Who among us can’t relate to the roles siblings play within a family? And have any of us survived our families without realizing that secrets abound in the nooks and crannies?

Set in London, the English countryside, Ireland, and Manhattan, we can see the unfolding of events as the surroundings define and characterize them all.

Reading like a mystery, a confessional, and a family chronicle, Instructions for a Heatwave is Maggie O’Farrell at her best. She shows us the interior journey of a family from its inception, pulling back the cloak of secrecy to reveal the darkest and innermost feelings of them all. I like the fact that the author did not tie up all the loose ends, but brought them to a point at which they seem poised for resolution. Leaving it to the reader’s imagination to fill in the rest. Five stars.


  1. I have never read this author but this review tells me she is gifted with family drama. I sometimes have difficulty with unresolved issues in stories but it depends how it’s done.


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