Though Mrs. Binchy’s website is down right now, I believe this is her last completed novel before she died. It deals with some different themes than those I’d previously read, but all the same lovable people that I’m grieved to know are not actually real.
We start back on St. Jarlath’s Crescent, which must have more houses than a standard American cul-de-sac because there are just so many different families who live there. An American cousin is coming to stay with our main family, all of whom are in a crisis of one thing or another. She quickly becomes indispensable not only to her family, but to everyone she interacts with. Her nephew, Noel, however, is her main project.
Noel is an alcoholic, who has just realized 1) he has a problem with alcohol and 2) some girl he had a one-night-stand with is pregnant and dying of cancer. She wants him to take take of the baby when its born, naming her Frankie. He does take responsibility and the village comes together to support him in his endeavor. We get to catch up with the folks at the heart clinic as well as many of the neighbors we’ve come to love. Cousin Emily is a little Mary Sue at times, always having the solution to whatever problem is coming down the pike.
There is a death toward the end of the book that I was not prepared for, as one never is, even with the aged. Reading this after Mrs. Binchy’s death, made it that much harder. Watching the beloved characters have to do without one of their pillars was rough, especially as I realized that I’ll never know what happens next. The book ends well, as all of her novels do, but having the possibility to see, even tangentially, how Cathy Scarlet or the twins were getting along was one of my favorite parts of the Dublin universe Maeve Binchy created. Losing her has closed the door to that universe and I’m not okay with that.
Rest in peace, Maeve Binchy. Thank you for these characters, this universe and portrayal of Ireland. I can’t wait to fall in love with the actual place as much as I did with your fictional one.