The Heirs: A Novel, by Susan Rieger
Publication: Crown; May 23, 2017
About the book:
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.
A riveting portrait of a family told with compassion, insight, and wit, The Heirs wrestles with the tangled nature of inheritance and legacy for one unforgettable, patrician New York family. Moving seamlessly through a constellation of rich, arresting voices, The Heirs is a tale out Edith Wharton for the 21st century.
Who, What, Where, When
The Heirs, by Susan Rieger, is her latest novel about a wealthy family in New York City, the Falkes. Rupert Falkes has recently passed away leaving his wife Eleanor and five sons: Harry, Will, Sam, Jack, and Tom.
Rupert is from England, raised in an orphanage by a Reverand Falkes, but never knew his biological family. Basically a self-made man, he went to Yale Law School and went on to be extremely successful in his career. His marriage to Eleanor was pleasant and happy, but only included affection in the bedroom. He loved his sons but again was not affectionate.
Eleanor loved raising her five boys and was a good parent despite being raised by a very cold and unaffectionate mother. Her first love was Jim Cardozo, but their marriage was forbidden due to differing religions.
A few months after Rupert’s death, Eleanor receives notice from her attorneys that the estate is being sued by Vera Wolinski, claiming that Rupert had fathered her two sons and financially supported them while they were growing up.
Thoughts and Reactions
The Heirs was a unique and beautifully written novel. Overall, it read more like a family case study than a fiction novel but was absolutely fascinating. The novel flashed back between the past and present allowing the reader to get to know Rupert prior to his death. The switch in time also provided further insight and Rupert and Eleanor’s life prior to meeting one another.
The five sons were interesting in that they were so incredibly different in some ways, yet so strongly bound together in other ways. They all want to Princeton after Harry enrolled there and they all became successful in various ways in their careers. While growing up, they noticed a lack of physical affection between Rupert and Eleanor but never suspected any problems or unhappiness in their parents’ marriage.
The reactions to Vera Wolinski and her sons varied throughout the family, however, it ranged from curiosity to anger, especially towards Eleanor. Perhaps their mother’s own solemn, calm reaction to the allegations sparked the anger, but regardless, Susan Rieger depicted a once picture perfect family suddenly start to realize their own immortality and their own abilities to make mistakes, fail, and feel regrets.
The Heirs most certainly not an action-packed read, as I stated earlier, it is more of a reflection and history of a family. It serves as a reminder that everything is not always as it seems, despite years of stability and routine. Especially with Eleanor and her sons, it also serves as a reminder of the secrets we keep as women, daughters, parents, husbands, sons, and so on. Eleanor’s life may not have played out exactly as she had wished, but she enjoyed her life and created her own happiness. It wasn’t until her sons started asking personal questions about her and Rupert’s life together, that they realized that they may not always want to hear the answers.
I liked Eleanor and Rupert’s characters, especially their back stories about their upbringing, but otherwise, there weren’t any other particularly likable characters. Perhaps Edward, Eleanor’s father, but otherwise, I felt no positive connection with any of the sons while reading.
Again, the writing and imagery in The Heirs were outstanding and I am glad that I read it, however, there are not any life-changing moments in the novel. What made this novel good and in my mind, stand out among other novels, was the characterization of Eleanor and Rupert and their contentedness in their lives.
*Many thanks to Blogging for Books for providing this novel in exchange for an honest review.