Title: The Heirs
Author: Susan Rieger
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Format: Digital ARC
Verdict: Borrow it from the library
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5
From PRH: Six months after Rupert Falkes dies, leaving a grieving widow and five adult sons, an unknown woman sues his estate, claiming she had two sons by him. The Falkes brothers are pitched into turmoil, at once missing their father and feeling betrayed by him. In disconcerting contrast, their mother, Eleanor, is cool and calm, showing preternatural composure.
Eleanor and Rupert had made an admirable life together — Eleanor with her sly wit and generosity, Rupert with his ambition and English charm — and they were proud of their handsome, talented sons: Harry, a brash law professor; Will, a savvy Hollywood agent; Sam, an astute doctor and scientific researcher; Jack, a jazz trumpet prodigy; Tom, a public-spirited federal prosecutor. The brothers see their identity and success as inextricably tied to family loyalty – a loyalty they always believed their father shared. Struggling to reclaim their identity, the brothers find Eleanor’s sympathy toward the woman and her sons confounding. Widowhood has let her cast off the rigid propriety of her stifling upbringing, and the brothers begin to question whether they knew either of their parents at all.
My Review: The Heirs was good but not great. Rieger is clearly a great literary fiction writer, the premise is good and the characters well developed and likeable but I wanted more from the story.
Eleanor Falkes receives a letter from Vera Wolinski six months after her husband Rupert Falkes dies staking claim to a portion of his estate. She says Rupert fathered her two grown sons and he promised to provide for them. Eleanor and their five sons, Harry, Will, Sam, Jack and Tom are floored by this news. Vera produces unconvincing evidence; a blurry photo of Rupert and their two sons and monthly payments received from an unknown Caymen bank account. Both are dismissed so she asks for paternity testing, which is impossible because Rupert was cremated and all of his personal effects donated to charity.
The boys find it all quite perplexing as Vera’s son’s bear a striking resemblance to their father; thinking it possible Rupert had another family they wonder who their father really was. With no conclusive evidence to prove paternity, Sam and Harry reach out to the men to make a financial amends.
The Falkeses are upper class, old money. They attended the best schools and had every advantage. Eleanor was brought up by a strict disciplinarian and loveless mother and Rupert was an orphan cared for by Reverend Falkes. Despite the stodginess Rupert and Eleanor were kind and loving parents. But, beneath the surface of their perfect appearance each family member tells their recollection of Rupert and Eleanor’s marriage in alternating narratives.
My favourite character is Sam. I found him the most level-headed of the brother’s, the go-to guy when a brother or sister-in-law needed to talk. His relationship with Andrew has reached an impasse, Sam wants a baby and Andrew doesn’t. Sam and longtime friend Susanna, whose biological clock is ticking, consider raising a baby together.
Thank you to Blogging for Books, Penguin Random House and Netgalley for this ARC in exchange for my own review.