We'll let LeBron James do the talking. He said about the sixth game of the NBA finals between the Heat and Spurs:
"It's by far the best game I've ever been a part of."
And it certainly was a stunner: The Heat's Ray Allen hit a three-pointer with just 5.2 seconds on the clock to tie the game, denying the Spurs of their fifth NBA title. The game went into overtime and remained airtight, but eventually the Heat prevailed 103 to 100.
ESPN has highlights:
Game 7 is in Miami at 9 p.m. ET. ABC-TV will televise the match.
British writer Maggie O'Farrell, born in Northern Ireland, is less well-known in the U.S. than she should be. Her mesmerizing, tautly plotted novels often revolve around long-standing, ugly family secrets and feature nonconformist women who rebel against their strict Irish Catholic upbringing. Her most recent books, The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox (2006) and The Hand That First Held Mine (2010), offer the sort of spellbinding reads that can make you miss your flight announcement.
I nearly missed my subway stop while immersed in Instructions for a Heatwave. Although it doesn't pack the surprise punches of her Costa award-winning The Hand That First Held Mine, O'Farrell's sixth novel still has plenty to recommend it — including an utterly convincing portrait of a voluble, long-suffering, devout Catholic who's "always done her best to keep Ireland alive in her London-born children" but is dismayed that not one of them is a churchgoer.
The novel takes place in London and Ireland over four scorching July days in 1976. When devoted but taciturn Robert Riordan, a retired bank manager, doesn't return after ducking out for the paper, as he has every morning for more than 30 years, his three grown children are drawn back home to rally around their bewildered mother. They come to realize that Gretta Riordan is more complex than any of them had imagined.
"The heat, the heat," O'Farrell's novel opens, but the drought and soaring temperatures are more metaphoric — and significantly less oppressive — than family dynamics. The narrative shifts expertly between Gretta and her son and two daughters, each of whom bears secrets and a backstory that rekindle old grievances with suffocating intensity.
Gretta, it seems, is the only one who's happily hitched — or so she assumed right up to the morning when her beloved Robert took off with his passport and extra cash. As usual, he had set the table with everything she needed for her breakfast: "... a plate, a knife, a bowl with a spoon, a pat of butter, a jar of marmalade. It is in such small acts of kindness that people know they are loved," she reflects just before he vanishes.
No such thoughtfulness greets Gretta's sensitive, guilt-prone first-born, Michael Francis, when he trudges home from his dreary job teaching history. After a shotgun wedding, he had to abandon his Ph.D. studies and dash his dreams of a professorship at an American university. Now that their second child is ready to start school, his wife, Claire, who's barely talking to him, is paving the way to her liberation by studying to complete her long-abandoned degree. Michael Francis is distraught at the thought of losing her.
O'Farrell piles on the misery in this section of the novel, though Monica, 10 months younger than her brother, is too peevish and self-righteous to arouse much compassion. Her first husband left her after a rude discovery of just how determined she was not to have children. Now she's terribly unhappy in her new country life, married to an older antiques dealer whose two small daughters treat her with disdain.
O'Farrell's sympathies generally lie most solidly with black sheep — or rather, black ewes. As such, Aoife (pronounced like Eva with an F sound, we're told) is the bleating heart of the novel. Ten years Monica's junior, she had, in her mother's words, "gone off the rails" and "flounced" to New York City three years earlier after a major falling-out with her sister. This defection capped a miserable childhood blighted by undiagnosed dyslexia. Enthralled with her freedom from family censure, Aoife has managed to support herself by working multiple jobs, including the first she's ever loved, as a photographer's assistant. But her carefully hidden illiteracy threatens her job and a serious budding romance.
With its tight time frame and carefully choreographed dramatic revelations, Instructions for a Heatwave unfolds with the efficiency of a well-constructed three-act drama. O'Farrell's dialogue is dead on, but she's equally skilled at letting small gestures, such as an arm draped around another's shoulder, tell us all we need to know.
The absent father is somewhat beside the point and fizzles as a galvanizing narrative force when O'Farrell discloses the mystery behind his disappearance — without much fanfare, and well before we expect it. Her real concern, it turns out, is not the Riordans' secret history but the familial ties that both bind and bruise — and the importance of forgiving those you love, whatever their trespasses.
How to weather crises and soaring temperatures? Get on with "the small acts of life." And when things really heat up, clear the air. Instructions for a Heatwave is a beautiful book about forgiveness.
In the hours following an announcement by the Taliban and the United States saying they were ready to begin peace talks, we received reminders of just how tenuous that situation is: On Tuesday night the Taliban said they fired two rockets near Bagram airbase in Kabul. The International Security Assistance Force said four service members were killed by "an indirect fire attack."
Not only that but this morning, Afghan President Amid Karzai walked away from bilateral talks with the U.S. to "protest the way his government was being left out of initial peace negotiations with the Taliban meant to find ways to end the nearly 12-year war," the AP reports.
The AP adds:
"In a terse statement from his office, Karzai said negotiations with the U.S. on what American and coalition security forces will remain in the country after 2014 have been put on hold.
"The statement followed an announcement Tuesday by the U.S. and the Taliban that they would pursue bilateral talks in Qatar before the Afghan government was brought in.
"'In view of the contradiction between acts and the statements made by the United States of America in regard to the peace process, the Afghan government suspended the negotiations, currently underway in Kabul between Afghan and U.S. delegations on the bilateral security agreement,' Karzai's statement said."
As The New York Times explains it, the attack was "at best a rocky prelude to peace talks with Taliban." The newspaper frames the story as a struggle between Karzai's government and the Taliban for legitimacy.
Karzai is angry that at the newly opened Doha office, the Taliban are flying a flag and calling the office the "Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan." The Afghan government wanted that office to be just an address where talks are held, but, as the Times explains, the Taliban are making it sound like an embassy. The Taliban, the Times reports:
"... made clear that they sought to be dealt with as a legitimate political force with a long-term role to play beyond the insurgency. In that sense, in addition to aiding in talks, the actual opening of their office in Qatar — nearly a year and a half after initial plans to open it were announced and then soon after suspended — could be seen as a signal that the Taliban's ultimate aim is recognition as an alternative to the Western-backed government of President Karzai."