The title of the novel “The Heirs” by Susan Rieger refers to family who find themselves heirs not only to a vast amount of money but also heirs to a mysterious legacy surrounding their father, mother and their parents’ complicated past.
This modern-day realistic fiction book describes the events that unfold following the patriarch's death at the relatively early age of 65. The nouveau riche family (although not terribly ostentatious as the term implies) enjoys living in a New York City apartment that can house five sons, two adults, and includes all the comforts of a large suburban home. Servants abound.
All five sons excel at Princeton and enjoy lucrative positions as adults that appealed to their interests as young boys. For example, one is a jazz trumpeter who lived for music growing up and one is a medical researcher who wanted chemistry sets and microscopes for gifts, even as a young child. The three other brothers have followed their hearts, as well, but all are high achievers and successful monetarily in their own right.
The charmed lives led by the brothers and their beautiful mother are shaken when a claim is made by another woman that their father and husband is also father to the woman’s two adult sons. As the story unfolds, there is little doubt that the woman’s claims are true.
The tale is told in flashbacks. The father, Rupert, was a foundling born and raised in an orphanage in England, and his connection to the mother of his unclaimed sons becomes clear as Rupert makes his way to America and begins his life penniless but ambitious and lucky.
Rupert’s family is privileged, lucky in fortune and looks, and do not seem to suffer much with the news of their father’s betrayal. We get some small insights into the brothers’ minds as small portions of their lives as adults are revealed.
What makes the book worth reading is the journey of the father from his days as an abandoned child to his ability to parlay luck and ambition into a successful career. Even though he is a less-than-stellar husband and father, he remains surrounded by a loving, seemingly perfect family. However, the father is best remembered for his punctuality and elegant rudeness, and I am not sure one would wish to be remembered mostly for those character traits.
Read this book for an insight into the very wealthy who are mostly unperturbed by life’s messiness. In this case, money matters.