Tina Jordan
June 26, 2013 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Instructions For a Heatwave

type
Book
Current Status
In Season
author
Maggie O'Farrell
publisher
Knopf
genre
Fiction

We gave it an A-

Never mind that London is sweltering through one of the most oppressive heat waves on record: in Instructions For a Heatwave, Gretta Riordan is up at dawn, oven blasting, to bake Irish soda bread while her husband of four decades, Robert, obediently sets the table for breakfast, carefully laying out the butter and jam. Then Robert leaves to get the paper…and doesn’t come back. After Gretta makes some frantic calls, her three more-or-less estranged children gather at the house — the prim, brittle Monica, caught in a bad marriage; failed history teacher Michael; and functional illiterate Aoife. The search for Robert is not half as interesting as the rich, barbed interplay among the siblings, who gibe, snap, and snipe as they go through their father’s things, slowly teasing out one another’s long-buried secrets — and a few of Gretta’s and Robert’s, too. A-

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