140. This Must Be the Place by Maggie O’Farell

Every once in a while, a book will find my way that knocks my socks right off. Not that I can wear any in this hot and humid city, but you get my poetic metaphor right?

*This Must be the Place is the second book that I’ve read by Maggie O’Farell, after I was mesmerised by The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox (you can read my review here.)

I picked it up only because of the author, and boy oh boy, have I had an “electrifying time”.

The Must Be the Place is such an odd, one of a kind story (in a good way!) that you just can’t help but marvel at the mind that wrote it.

“We must pursue what’s in front of us, not what we can’t have or what we have lost. We must grasp what we can reach and hold on, fast.”

Some stories just touch the surface of what it is like to be a human, a parent, a sibling, a lover, a professional and more. But this…?

This digs deep and uncovers the depth of the iceberg hiding beneath the sea and invisible to the eye.

“It is possible, I think as I sit there on the cold wood of the bandstand bench, to see ailing marriages as brains that have undergone a stroke. I’m told it’s perfectly possible to suffer one and not realize it until much later.”

The story is about Daniel Sullivan – a linguist that wants to know why certain words are said and used the way they are, a divorcee, father of two kids whom he cannot meet, and basically a wreck after losing his mother.

Somehow, he lands in Ireland all the way from Brooklyn to find the ashes of his late grandfather, and meets Claudette and her son Ari, who are stuck with a flat tyre in the countryside somewhere in Donegal, Ireland.

Claudette looks oddly familiar to her, like he has seen her before, in multiple guises but before he can pinpoint what it is, she is hounding him for being a stalker.

Later on he would realise that this magnetic character is the famous star that one day vanished and left a big movie midway filming.

“I do not thinks that what is called Love at first sight is so great an absurdity as it is sometimes imagined to be.

They get married, have two kids but Daniel is struck with the guilt of possibly killing his ex-girlfriend when he was young and dumb. And so, when he returns for his father’s birthday he goes on a mission to discover what actually happened to her.

“Do you think, Daniel,” she said to him, rolling over onto her back… “that we might have reached the end of our story?”

Leaving his wife and kids in the dark and ultimately putting his current relationship on the line.

This book goes back and forth in time starting from 1944-2016, in various places including Brooklyn, Paris, London, Donegal, Sweden, Cumbria, a salt pan in Bolivia, with perspectives of many people involved to both Daniel and Claudette.

Such books usually confuse my mind while trying to keep up with the POVs of multiple characters, many timelines and doing my best not to miss any piece in the puzzle.

But reading this book I felt something electric, something so flawed yet humane, I couldn’t think of anything else.

The character of Claudette was so eccentric I couldn’t help but love her, and the kid, you guys, the kids were portrayed so perfectly. Each being different yet carbon copies of each other, with their own worlds and quirks.

But mostly, I was moved by the struggle these two characters faced as parents and as partners, and the strain it had on their relationships with people connected to them.

We’re so much more than these roles that define us and sometimes we lose ourselves in them. Claudette had such a moment when she was alone for the first time in a very very long time, and her thoughts reflected the foreignness of that night.

This Must Be the Place was a love story, a thriller, a contemporary drama, a mystery, a coming of age story, and a great mix of a book that will spin your mind like a swivelling globe.

I am still in a high after reading this.

Onto the basics:

  1. Rating: 5.0 /5.0
  2. Favorite quote: “What redemption there is in being loved: we are always our best selves when loved by another. Nothing can replace this.”
  3. Reader level: terms relating to landscapes and nature are mentioned, you can always look them up.
  4. Should you read: If you’re looking for a unique story that you’ve never come across, read this.
  5. Would I read it again: Already planning when.

Till next time,

-Sarah

*Linked is an affiliate link for Book depository to purchase the book. There are no extra charges, and helps me out 🙂

 

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