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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Irish Lullaby

I haven't been in a good mood lately. As a matter of fact, I've been rather surly for the last week or so, grumbling at grocery clerks, scowling at cheerful "Hellos!", and even yelling at poor FrankieB. This is not like the normally cheerful me. I am not sure if this is because those around me—friends  neighbors, distant family—are cocooning inwardly away for the holidays or that the lingering, rheumy vestiges of a nasty cold have kept me sequestered, or that I'm weeks—no, months—behind in my writing schedule or that suddenly there are house repairs that need to be made that I can no longer afford on a very limited retirement budget. In any one or all of these events, a general merry malaise and piqued annoyance has set in. I just can't seem to shake it. Not even with a great novel. Well, almost not even. There is one...

I have read a Maeve Binchy novel each year, ever since her first novel, Light A Penny Candle , was released in April 1983. A dear friend introduced me to the heartwarming, almost gushy sentimental writings of this dear, mainline Irish writer, and I've been a fan of hers ever since. She has written twenty novels—publishing one state-side each spring. Yet, for some reason, though, I missed reading Minding Frankie1, her nineteenth2, which, ordered last year, has been sitting in the middle of my now too tall To-Be-Read stack. I found it last week, scowling at the pile in the barest hopes I might find something to sooth my irrational irritability. And so I settled in with it early one afternoon and couldn't put it down until I finished it two days later.

There is something about Maeve Binchy, whose writings always soothed the savage soul—much like a softly sung Irish lullaby can calm a fusty baby. Minding Frankie is no exception. Set in Dublin, Ireland and its environs, as all Binchy's novels are, this engrossingly fast read is a stylistic portrait of a close-knit community that rallies around Noel Lynch, a young recovering alcoholic, who takes on the care and "minding" of Frankie, whose mother dies from cancer-related complications during childbirth. As the community envelops the baby and Noel with much baby-tending assistance and lots of familial love, each of its members comes to grips with his/her own life-altering events. Outside of the crass, clueless social worker, Moira Tierney, an over-the-top nosy, pushy, busybody—a trait that is supposedly an asset to her job—each of the characters we meet are warm, loving, and kind. Yet, with Binchy's incredible talent of character insight, each of them has an all-too-real human nature, replete with all-too-real flaws and foibles. Reading about them as they go through their daily lives is like reading the intimate details of your(my) own neighbors, families, and friends.

How Noel struggles to overcome his drinking addition and his doubts; how Moira learns what it truly means to be a friend; how Emily, a distant American cousin, helps the community gel together to help each other almost seems like the stuff of fluffy fairy tale novels. Expect, in this case, it's, again, an all-too-real deep depiction of life at its best; written by a great author at her best. This is a rare insight into the realties of life and the close bonds of friends and family. Lives and loves such as those that Maeve happily knew well and wrote well about until her untimely death this past July at the young age of 70. Her legacy is not only the elevation of the soul in reading Minding Frankie, but the touching of all of her reader's human hearts by all of her insightfully sensitive novels.

While her presence will be greatly missed in the larger literary community, her books will live on, like the lilting refrains of a beloved Irish lullaby.
1 © 2010 by Maeve Binchy. 383 pages, hardback. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY. 2011. United States first edition.
2 Binchy's last and latest novel, A Week in Winter , was completed shortly before her demise and is now published in the United Kingdom. It is schedule to be released in the United States in Spring 2013.

2:45 pm est          Comments

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June J. McInerney, the host of this Literary Blog, is an author, poet, and librettist. Her currently published works include a novel, a book of spiritual inspirations, two volumes of poetry, stories for children (of all ages) and a variety of children's musicals. Her titles include:
Miss Elmira's Secret Treasure: A Novel of Phoenixville during the Early 1900s
Colonial Theatre: A Novel of Phoenixville during the Roarin' 20s 
Phoenix Hose, Hook & Ladder: A Novel of Phoenixville during World War I
Columbia Hotel: A Novel of Phoenixville during the Early 1900s
the Schuylkill Monster: A Novel of Phoenixville in 1978
The Prisoner's Portrait: A Novel of Phoenxville during World War II
Rainbow in the Sky
Meditations for New Members

Adventures of Oreigh Ogglefont
The Basset Chronicles.
Cats of Nine Tales
Spinach Water: A Collection of Poems
Exodus Ending: A Collection of More Spiritual Poems

We Three Kings

Beauty and the Beast


Noah's Rainbow

Peter, Wolf, and Red Riding Hood



Originally from the New York metropolitan area, June currently lives near Valley Forge Park in Pennsylvania with her constant and loving companions, FrankieBernard and Sebastian Cat. She is currently working on her sixth novel.

June's novels can be purchased at amazon.com, through Barnes and Noble,
at the Historical Society of the Phoenixville Area,
the Gateway Pharmacy in Phoenixvile, PA

For more information about her musicals, which are also available on amazon.com,