Maggie O'Farrell
Instructions for a Heatwave

Instructions for a Heatwave

$11.99$1.99

I picked this up after reading—and loving—O'Farrell's newest novel, This Must Be the Place (a 2018 MMD winter Book Club selection!). During a record-setting heatwave, the patriarch of an Irish family clears out his bank account and disappears, leaving his family to puzzle out where he went, and why. Reminiscent of The Dry for its oppressive, atmospheric heat, and Ann Patchett's Commonwealth for its fraught sibling relationships.

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This Must Be the Place

This Must Be the Place

This is one of my favorite rereads. Family stories are commonplace in fiction, but I love this one for its intricate plotting, nuanced characters, true-to-life feel, and ultimate hopefulness. This is the story of an unlikely but successful marriage between a floundering American professor and a British film star who hated the limelight so much she faked her own death and disappeared ... until an unexpected bit of news, twenty years old but newly discovered, threatens to unravel everything they've built together.

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I Am, I Am, I Am

I Am, I Am, I Am

In O'Farrell's memoir-of-sorts, she tells the story of her life through seventeen brushes with death. I didn't quite believe the premise when I first heard it (Seventeen brushes? Really?), but O'Farrell doesn't mess around with this heart-pounding collection, in which she recounts near-misses with car accidents, murderers, anaphylaxis, a childhood bout with encephalitis, and more. There's obviously some sensitive content here, but I'd like to especially point out that O'Farrell's heart-rending essay on miscarriage is some of the finest writing I've seen on the subject (a subject that's not covered enough in literature).

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Best Contemporary Women’s Fiction: Six Novels

Best Contemporary Women’s Fiction: Six Novels

Six novels in one volume—including Ann Patchett (The Magician's Assistant), Elizabeth Benedict, Jenna Blum, Molly Gloss, Nicole Mones, and Maggie O'Farrell (The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox)—a deal.

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Hamnet

Hamnet

In her sweeping new novel, Maggie O’Farrell takes a few historically known facts about Shakespeare’s wife and family and, from this spare skeleton, builds out a lush, vivid world. You should know this book is devastating, and I consumed the better part of a box of Kleenex while reading it. Yet with its captivating central character and evocative storytelling, I didn’t want to leave Shakespeare’s world—or put down O’Farrell’s writing. The story centers on Agnes, Shakespeare’s wife, who is torn apart by grief when their son Hamnet dies at age 11. Soon after, Shakespeare writes Hamlet—and O’Farrell convincingly posits that the two events are closely tied. In her distinctive style, O’FarrellI takes you to the heart of what really matters in life, making you feel such a deep sense of loss for Hamnet that you won’t look at your own life the same way.

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After You’d Gone

After You’d Gone

This was another book where I read the final paragraph and turned back to the beginning to read it again. I'm working my way through Maggie O'Farrell's backlist, and this, her 2000 debut, may be my favorite of her older works. Told from multiple points of view, in multiple timelines, it took me a few chapters to find my footing, but once I did I blew through this compelling mix of love story, mystery, and compelling family saga. You should know that terrible, seemingly random tragedies beset characters in O'Farrell's novels, yet in her plots these surprising turns don't feel cheap, <a href="https://modernmrsdarcy.com/things-unsaid/" target="_blank"> but all too true to our own real life experiences</a>. (As one character muses, "Why isn't life better designed so it warns you when terrible things are about to happen?")

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The Vanishing Act Of Esme Lennox

The Vanishing Act Of Esme Lennox

I'm working my way through Maggie O'Farrell's backlist. This 2008 novel from the best-selling author of Hamnet is a "gothic tale of family secrets, lost lives, and the freedom brought by truth… In the middle of tending to the everyday business at her vintage-clothing shop and sidestepping her married boyfriend's attempts at commitment, Iris Lockhart receives a stunning phone call: Her great-aunt Esme, whom she never knew existed, is being released from Cauldstone Hospital––where she has been locked away for more than 61 years. Iris's grandmother Kitty always claimed to be an only child. But Esme's papers prove she is Kitty's sister, and Iris can see the shadow of her dead father in Esme's face. Esme has been labeled harmless––sane enough to coexist with the rest of the world. But she's still basically a stranger, a family member never mentioned by the family, and one who is sure to bring life-altering secrets with her when she leaves the ward. If Iris takes her in, what dangerous truths might she inherit?"

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