Where would you go if you wanted to disappear from the world? If you are Maggie O’Farrell, of course you would go to Ireland. In her new book – This Must Be the Place – O’Farrell creates a complicated saga of lives constantly being reinvented, and the turmoil of relationships.
Daniel Sullivan, an American linguistics professor, drives the action, across different wives, countries, children, and time zones. As the story opens, Daniel is trying to recover from a bitter divorce which has kept him from seeing his two young children, Niall and Phoebe. On a trip to Ireland to scatter his grandfather’s ashes, he serendipitously meets Claudette, a famous movie star in hiding with her young son, Ari. Eventually, they marry and happily stay in hiding together in a remote area of Ireland for ten years – until, the next crisis in Daniel’s life.
If the plot seems formulaic, do not be deceived. O’Farrell expertly weaves characters and motivations together, while keeping the reader off balance with the jumping of time zones and the introductions of new characters. She cleverly draws the reader into what would seem to be an ordinary existence, then clobbers all expectations with revelations of the past in each character’s life.
The story is complicated but rewarding. In This Must Be the Place, O’Farrell offers the possibilities of love offering understanding and relief from our own worst selves.
I need to read the book again, but knowing what happens will not spoil the anticipation of watching the interaction of all the characters, and, this time, I plan to revel in O’Farrell’s vivid descriptions of place and time.