The cover blurb on my (library) copy of Maggie O'Farrell's novel This Must Be the Place is by Richard Russo, an author I don't particularly love, except I love what he said about her book, that it "deserves to be her breakout book." I totally agree, as she is an author who I love but who no one else seems to know.
(Aside from the people to whom I've raved about her books.)
Her book The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox might just be in my top-twenty books-of-all-time list. And The Hand that First Held Mine is not very far behind. She does the historical/contemporary blend, where the two stories weave together in a way you didn't expect, so well. Better, I think, than Kate Morton (whose last book, The Lake House, was good but the twist-it-all-together-at-the-end was just too convenient for me). Plus I like her writing style quite a bit.
This Must Be the Place is about Claudette Wells, a movie star who one day vanishes from her life to escape to an Irish farmhouse (swoon, books set in Ireland) and Daniel Sullivan, a linguist who accidentally discovers Claudette's hiding place when he's driving around Ireland trying to find his grandfather's long-lost ashes.
This book is all over the place, but in the very best ways. Part of it is an auction catalog of the items Claudette left behind. Part of it—the bit with Daniel's estranged teenage daughter—feels like a really good YA novel. It moves back and forth between Claudette's history and Daniel's. Plus there are clever little linguisty-asides that I highly enjoyed.
It's not really a twist-it-all-together-at-the-end sort of book. The past/present stories don't literally connect. But they do connect in an insight for Daniel that is the heart of the story (and reminded me just the tiniest bit of A God in Ruins). He is thinking about his choices and where they led him and how Claudette is his "unavoidable constant" but, with a few small changes, "how different it all might have been, how minuscule the causes and how devastating their effects."
Even though some fairly devastating things happen.
To explain much more would spoil the story, so I'm just going to throw this out there. If you like books set in Ireland and/or London, if you like books about actresses (in general I don't, but I'm glad I made the exception for this one; I'll likely always make an exception for Maggie O'Farrell), if you like books that explore relationships and how they work (and don't work) and how past ones influence current ones, all mixed up with some lovely writing, then I think you'll love this book, too.
You, me, and Richard Russo.