Heart and Soul

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Overview

"Maeve Binchy tells a story of family, friends, patients, and staff who are part of a heart clinic in a community caught between the old and the new Ireland." "Dr. Clara Casey has been offered the thankless job of establishing the underfunded clinic and agrees to take it on for a year. She has plenty on her plate already - two difficult adult daughters and the unwanted attentions of her ex-husband - but she assembles a wonderfully diverse staff devoted to helping their demanding, often difficult patients." Before long the clinic is established as ...
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Overview

"Maeve Binchy tells a story of family, friends, patients, and staff who are part of a heart clinic in a community caught between the old and the new Ireland." "Dr. Clara Casey has been offered the thankless job of establishing the underfunded clinic and agrees to take it on for a year. She has plenty on her plate already - two difficult adult daughters and the unwanted attentions of her ex-husband - but she assembles a wonderfully diverse staff devoted to helping their demanding, often difficult patients." Before long the clinic is established as an essential part of the community, and Clara must decide whether or not to leave a place where lives are saved, courage is rewarded, and humor and optimism triumph over greed and self-pity.
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Editorial Reviews

Bill Sheehan
Binchy is adept at juggling multiple story lines and creating genuine drama out of the quotidian problems of life: illness, accidents, misunderstandings, romantic and sexual betrayal. Her work reflects a pervasive generosity of spirit and projects a reassuring quality that is, I think, a central element of her enduring popularity…this good-hearted…novel offers many honest pleasures and deserves the success it will no doubt achieve.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

Binchy delivers another delightful Binchyesque amalgamation of intersecting lives, this time centering on Clara Casey, a cardiologist whose marriage and career have fallen apart. After she accepts an undesirable post at St. Brigid's Hospital, Clara throws herself into work to forget the humiliation of her husband's many affairs, but it's difficult to escape her home life with two adult daughters who still depend on her as if they were children. Though she stands at the center of the book, Clara cedes the stage to others, such as Declan Carroll, a young doctor at the clinic trying to make a life for himself, and Ania, Clara's assistant, whose affair with a married man forced her to leave her Polish hometown. Beautiful, hardworking and humble, Ania attracts the attention of Carl Walsh, the son of one of the clinic's patients. And so it goes in this novel of intersecting lives that keeps daily drama interesting even when it occasionally sacrifices suspense for realism. In spite of a few dull moments, the collective, charming effect of these story lines suggests that individuals are more connected than they might think. (Mar.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

The newly hired director of a cardiac-care center, Dr. Clara Casey is a strong character, who with great humor and panache manages life as a female medical professional and the single mother of two daughters. Crossing paths in the clinic or via clinic staff are Nora and Aidan Dunne, Father Bryan Flynn, Tom and Cathy Feather, and twins Simon and Maud, among others from various earlier Binchy novels (e.g., Evening Class). In keeping with tradition, several important dinners take place at Quentins restaurant. A nurse in Clara's clinic, Fiona Ryan has rebounded from the disastrous relationship portrayed in Nights of Rain and Stars, and a hard-working Polish immigrant named Ania overcomes her past and blossoms in her adopted country. The novel ranges far and wide, following some recurring characters to Greece, and it is always a comfort to catch up with familiar faces and meet new friends. Binchy fills the book with people finding true love, discovering their niche in life, and taking full advantage of second chances. Binchy's numerous fans will seek this out. [See Prepub Alert, LJ10/1/08.]
—Beth Lindsay

From the Publisher
"Good-hearted [and] entertaining . . . [Heart and Soul] reflects a pervasive generosity of spirit [and] offers many honest pleasures." –The Washington Post

"Sweet indulgence. . . . Heart and Soul is a delicious delight." –Las Vegas Review-Journal

"Heart and Soul is a pleasant escape into an entertaining fantasy world across the ocean. . . . [Binchy] once again paints a delightful picture of Ireland that elevates the everyday joys and tragedies of her characters to ones of pure romance." –Woodbury Magazine

“A new Maeve Binchy novel is always welcome. . . . Binchy has a true gift of creating characters we either know or wish we knew . . . Heart and Soul creates a perfect escape.” –The Plain Dealer

“At the end of a long week, a long winter, a long economic downturn, [Maeve Binchy’s Heart and Soul is] exactly what we need.” –Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Warm and comfy. . . . Reading Heart and Soul is not unlike getting a hug from your mother.” –The Globe and Mail (Toronto)

"Oh, the bliss. . . . Maeve's back, on top form." –The Times (London)

"[Maeve Binchy] knows how to fashion a minor drama into a crisis, and the book rattles along from one gripping story to another, leaving the reader with a satisfying glow. . . . It does exactly what it says on the tin: gives heart and soul." –Daily Mail

"[Heart and Soul] brings together the secret hopes and dreams of a disparate group of characters . . . with [Binchy's] trademark warmth and empathy." –Irish Sunday Independent

"Maeve Binchy's latest novel is packed as usual with wonderful characters. . . . Full of warmth, caring and commonsense." –CHOICE

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780739377239
  • Publisher: Random House Audio Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 2/17/2009
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Abridged, 5 CDs
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 5.90 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Maeve Binchy is the author of numerous best-selling books, including her most recent novels, Heart and Soul, Whitethorn Woods, and Tara Road, which was an Oprah’s Book Club selection. She and her husband, Gordon Snell, live in Dalkey, Ireland.

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Read an Excerpt

Mountainview, despite its pleasant name, was one of the tough areas of Dublin. Some of the big estates were home to drug dealers and it wasn't a place to walk alone at night. The school had its ups and downs, but it was lucky enough to have a headmaster, Tony O'Brien, who could deal with toughness head-on.Some of the older teachers found the change difficult. Things used to be different. The place had been shabby but they'd had respect. The children came from homes where money was short, but they were all keen to make something of themselves. Today they only cared about money, and if someone's big brother was driving a smart car and wearing an expensive leather jacket, it was hard to get interested in having a job in a bank or an office where you might never make enough to have your own house or car and a leather jacket was just a dream. No wonder so many of them joined gangs. And as for respect? Aidan Dunne told his wife, Nora, all about it.Big fellows would push past you in the corridor and sort of nudge the books out of your hand. Then they would laugh and say that sir must be losing his grip. Aidan remembered when they would rush to pick up the books. Not now. Now they called him Baldy, or asked him if he remembered the First World War.It was the same with the women teachers. If they weren't married, some of the really rough fellows would ask them were they frigid or lesbian. If they were married, they would ask them how many times a night did they do it.“And what do you say?” Nora wondered.“I try to ignore them. I tell myself that they're only insecure kids like always—it's just they have a different way of expressing it. Still, it doesn't make the day's work any easier.”“And how do the women cope?”“The younger ones are on top of it, they say things like, 'Oh, you'd never be able to satisfy me like my old man does,' or else that, sure, they are gay because the only alternative is horrible spotty boys with filthy fingernails.” Aidan shook his head. “By the time I get to the classroom I'm worn out,” he said sadly.“Why don't you give it up?” Nora said suddenly. She taught Italian at an evening class and organized a yearly outing to Italy for the group. She had several other small jobs, but she had no interest in money or pensions or the future. She sat in one of the basket chairs she had bought at a garage sale and tried to persuade Aidan to join her in this carefree lifestyle.But he was a worrier. It would be idiotic to leave his school now several years before retirement date. It would mean no proper pension; if he were to amount to anything he had to provide for Nora and his family from an earlier marriage.“Oh, you've well provided for them,” Nora said cheerfully.“You've given Nell most of the money you got for the house, Grania is married to the headmaster of Mountainview School, Brigid has been made a partner in the travel agency. They should be providing for you, if you come to think of it.”“But you, Nora, what about you? I want to look after you, give you some comfort and pleasures.”“You give me great comfort and pleasures,” she said.“But some security, Nora,” he pleaded.“I never had security before, I don't want it now.”“I have to finish out my time there.”“Not if you don't like it. What about this lovely life we promised each other and we have mainly had?”“It depends on my having a good safe job, Nora,” he said.“No—it doesn't. Not if it's making you worry, and panic about these louts. We don't need it, Aidan. Not if it's affecting your health.”“It's not affecting my health,” Aidan said firmly.A week later Aidan and Nora were in one of their favorite secondhand bookshops; they were each browsing separately when she suddenly looked over at him. His hand was at his throat and he seemed to be having difficulty catching his breath.“Aidan?” she called.“Sorry, is it very stuffy in here?”“No, indeed—there's a lazy wind coming in from the canal.”“A lazy wind?” he asked distractedly.“You know—a wind that doesn't bother to make the time to go round you so it goes through you . . .” Nora smiled.He didn't smile back.She was alarmed now. “Is there something wrong?”“I don't seem to be able to breathe in,” he said. “Oh, Nora, dear Nora, I hope that I'm not going to faint or anything.”“No, of course you're not. Just sit down there.” She was brisk and practical. First, she spoke to the shop owner.“Where's the nearest hospital?” she asked.“St. Brigid's. Is there a problem?”“I think my husband is having some kind of seizure. Taxi rank?”“Don't bother. I'll drive you,” he said.Nora didn't question it. There would be time to thank him later.“Right, Aidan, Dara is giving us a lift,” she said.“Where to?” he gasped.“To somewhere that will help you breathe properly, my darling,” she said.And he closed his eyes in relief.At the A&E in St. Brigid's the nurses moved him wordlessly into a cubicle. They had given him oxygen and the house doctor had been called.“Take off his trousers,” the doctor said.“What?” Nora was taken aback.“Please, madam.” The Chinese doctor was very courteous. “His lungs are flooded, we need to drain the liquid from him, we have to put him on a catheter . . .”Nora explained this to Aidan.“That's extraordinary—I don't feel as if I need to go to the loo at all,” he said.The oxygen was helping. He was much calmer. Nora looked at a huge container and saw it filling up with what looked like gallons of fluid.“How could that happen?” she asked.“The heart is failing to pump,” the Chinese doctor explained.“He is in heart failure at the moment.”Nora felt all the strength leave her body. The good, kind man that she adored and who loved her too had a heart that had failed him. Life as they knew it was over.In about an hour Aidan felt so much better he was ready to come home. He was surprised when he heard that they were getting a bed for him in St. Brigid's.“But I'm perfectly fine now,” he protested.Nora went home for his pajamas, dressing gown and a sponge bag. She remained calm and reassuring on the outside, but inside she felt that she had lost the will to live.The next few days passed in a blur: visits from teams of senior doctors, their younger assistants with clipboards, nurses, carers, cleaners, trolleys of food. Visitors coming in with anxious faces. And among them was Nora Dunne, tall, wild-eyed, her long red hair with its gray streaks tied back with a black ribbon.She sat beside Aidan's bed and they played chess happily together. If people had been watching them closely they would have noticed that they never talked about household things, bills, repairs, shopping. They didn't talk about neighbors or family or friends. They just lived for each other. And if people had been watching very carefully they would have realized that Nora was behaving like a robot. She was keeping the show on the road for Aidan.When he was discharged after a week they talked to him seriously about levels of stress in his life. When he told them about life up at the school, the cardiologist advised him to give up the job. Aidan wouldn't even consider discussing it. He would take his medication, he would take long rests each day. But he would not give up his job. It was the only thing he had to offer his wife, some stability. He had not been a good provider. There had been other calls on his finances. A previous family. No, in all honor he had to stay on until his pension was assured.The medical team spoke to Nora too and found her hard to fathom. Over and over she said she wasn't remotely interested in possessions or pensions. They lived in a small and simple rented flat. She could easily go out to work and make the rent. Their needs were not great.“So will you encourage him to retire?” the cardiologist suggested.“No, not if he doesn't want to, Doctor. Why should I stand between him and what he wants to do? Aidan always loved teaching. He would feel such a failure if we took him out of that school.”“Could he not teach at home? Give private tuition, maybe?”“No. Aidan doesn't approve of people having to pay for extra education. We couldn't ask him to go against his principles.”“But you are such a strong personality, Mrs. Dunne. I am sure that you could persuade him.”“I'm sure I could if I tried—but it would not be honest to make him give up what he truly wants to do.”“Even if it's killing him?”“But he's going to die anyway, isn't he?”“We all are, but with care he has plenty of life left.”Nora's face was still empty. “A life of fear and anxiety and thinking that choking will return.”“We can help him make sure that it doesn't. As sure as can be.”“Which isn't totally sure, is it?” Her voice was hard.“No, no more than we can be sure that you won't both be hit by a bus on your way home. But we have a very good record in keeping people alive and well and in normal life after a heart attack. Your husband will be in that number. We have referred him to a heart failure clinic which he will have to attend regularly. It's a heart clinic attached to this hospital. Patients go there to be monitored, to have blood tests, check their medication.”“And why do you call it heart failure?”“Because that's what their hearts are doing: failing to work at the optimum levels.”“And Aidan has to come here every week, is that it?”“To start with, yes. Then as he progresses, less often. He will findit a great reassurance.”Nora was silent.“Truly he will, Mrs. Dunne. All our research has shown that it makes people much more confident and positive, which is exactly what they need at this time.”“And is it funded by a drug company? Do they do experiments on the patients?”“Absolutely not. It is operated under the aegis of this hospital and we are very proud of it.” He bristled with resentment at her suspicions.“I'm sorry, Doctor. To you Aidan is a patient you are looking after. To me he is my whole life. I'm not thinking straight.”“He will need you to think straight now more than ever before,” the doctor said. Clearly, this woman had to be brought on board.“Go to the heart clinic with him, get to know the people there; you may both get a lot from it.”For the first time, the tight, pained look left Nora Dunne's face.She was a handsome woman, the doctor realized.“We'll give it a chance,” she said with a hint of a smile.Excerpted from HEART AND SOUL by Maeve Binchy Copyright © 2009 by Maeve Binchy. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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Introduction

"Good-hearted and entertaining.... Offers many honest pleasures." —The Washington Post

The introduction, questions, and suggestions for further reading that follow are intended to enhance your reading group's discussion of Maeve Binchy's engrossing, deeply satisfying new novel, Heart and Soul.

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Foreword

1. Have you read any of Maeve Binchy's other books? If you've encountered any of these characters before, how did this new novel deepen your understanding of them? If you haven't, which characters would you like to spend more time with?

2. It's clear what the “heart” of the title refers to, but who—or what—is the “soul”?

3. The heart clinic is the embodiment of a new idea that advocates teaching people about their health without having to go to a hospital or to a doctor who may not have much time to spend with an individual patient. Why do you think the heart clinic is a good idea? Is there such a thing in your town or neighborhood?

4. There are many different mothers in the novel. Who does Binchy portray as a good mother? In what ways? Which mother would you most like to have as your own?

5. How are Binchy's mother-daughter relationships different from her mother-son ones?

6. Why does Clara find it easier to be kind to Ania than to her daughters Adi and Linda?

7. Clara is a firm believer in the “curative powers of being busy” [p. 25]. How does this affect her in her career? In her personal life?

8. It is very difficult to make decisions about your parents when they are older. Was Hilary right to try to keep her mother at home with her?

9. There are two car accidents in the novel. How does each one change the course of the story?

10. What role does the “new Ireland” play in Heart and Soul? Is Quentins part of the new Ireland and if so how? What other aspects of this novel reflect the new Ireland?

11. Discuss the bigotry Ania faces, especially by Rosemary. Inwhat ways is the treatment of new immigrants different in Ireland than it is in this country?

12. Several of the women have had relationships with abusive and entirely untrustworthy men. How does their prior history affect their current romances? Are these relationships healthier than the previous ones because of the men involved, or have the women themselves changed?

13. The pharmacist, Peter Barry, seems as if he would be a good husband. What made Clara realize that he wasn't the man for her? Do you think she was right in her decision?

14. On page 191, Ania says, “I like this word peaceable. . . It's what I would like to be.” Does she achieve this goal? How does her new-found peace help in her encounters with Rosemary?

15. Was Eileen Edwards genuinely delusional, or do you think she had another reason for blackmailing Father Flynn? What did you think of Johnny's solution to Father Flynn's problem? Who benefited the most from the resolution?

16. Twice in the novel, characters state, “We always regret what we don't do, rarely what we do do.” Who follows this code to the greatest advantage? Is there anyone who should apply it but doesn't?

17. Who is the most contented character in the novel? The most disappointed? What role does money play in their happiness?

18. On page 514, Declan says to Rosemary “May you get what you deserve.” Does she? Which of Binchy's characters doesn't?

19. Who was your favorite character and why?

20. What do you imagine happens next between Clara and Frank?

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Interviews & Essays

Mother's Day
It's so easy to look at other people's situations and sort them out. I am an expert on knowing what everyone else should do in life. Mother's Day, for example. My mother died over forty years before Mother's Day had become a festival and an institution, but I know exactly the kind of Mother's Day she would have liked.

She would have loved to be surrounded by her children and the grandchildren she never got to see. We would all have brought her a book and she would have been delighted with each one and read what we had written in the flyleaf. She would have liked us to be relaxed and happy not competitive and edgy. She would surely have liked memories and recollections and funny stories of the past. She might have tried to brush them away but deep down she would have been thrilled to know that we thought she was a terrific mother who told us that we were all wonderful and filled us with confidence and courage.

I think we would have had lunch at her house where we all brought the food. Then afterwards we would invite some of her friends in for tea and cake. They would see a room full of flowers, books, cards and family. They would be impressed and realize that she was much loved and valued. The day would be celebratory but in my mind it would only be one of many times in the year that we would all get together.

Sadly I am not a mother myself. I don't know what it's like at all but if I had two children I would love a picnic for Mother's Day. I wouldn't care so much about a big bouquet of flowers. I would prefer the sound of laughter in a garden and the realization that the children had enjoyed their youth. It would be very cheering to think that I had made them laugh and that they looked back on their photograph albums with pleasure. Is that over sentimental? Is it just the annual fantasy of a motherless childless woman who wants part of the action? Or is it actually very wise?

Perhaps all over the land there are women who would love a gift carefully chosen to add to their bookshelf, a special message of Thank You written on the card or a bouquet of flowers. But I think that mothers everywhere would mostly want the presence of a smiling united family. Surely I am not the only woman in the world to feel this way. I just offer it as random thought about a world which I know little about.

And make it a good day however you spend it. --Maeve Binchy

A Conversation with Maeve Binchy, Author of HEART AND SOUL

Q: Your novels often explore the concept of love. Can you name a few of your favorite literary love stories?

A: I think most people read a love story long before they ever know what true love is like. So we remember the great passions that we read about when we were young. I loved the story of Anthony and Cleopatra, and how Anthony allowed himself to dally with the Queen of Egypt when he should have been back in Rome watching his back. I liked the frenetic, troubled romances in F. Scott Fitzgerald, and the changing patterns of Scarlett O'Hara's love life in Gone with the Wind.

Q: Heart and Soul is set in a heart clinic. Why did you choose this setting and how does it influence the story?

A: I set Heart and Soul in a heart clinic because I attend one myself. I have always found it a place of hope and optimism where they teach you how to manage your heart disease and not to be afraid of it. When I was young if anyone had a heart attack we thought it was goodbye. But not nowadays.

It seemed like a good place to set a story, a place where people were slowly getting courage to live their lives to the fullest. And I wanted to make it cheerful and positive and funny, which is what we all need.

Q: The book centers on Clara, the doctor in charge of the clinic, but the book also follows quite an ensemble of characters with intertwining stories. How does your work within the discipline of short story writing contribute to your work within the novel genre?

A: I like to concentrate on the bit part players, the supporting cast as well as the maincharacters, so it's often interesting to pause and follow somebody home to a different life while still connecting them to the main story. Then when that person appears again it is like meeting an old friend.
Because I do write short stories I suppose I find it easy to slip into someone's life for a short time and then leave.

Q: New characters are joined by a few from past books, including Nora from Evening Class, Maud and Simon from Scarlet Feature, and Quentins itself (if I can call a restaurant a character). How did you decide which characters to bring back to life?

A: I decided to bring back characters whose lives were not finished and tidied up. I was even wondering myself would Vonni ever find her long lost son? Would Signora be happy when she married Aidan? How the twins Maud and Simon would turn out when they stopped being twelve year olds. I wondered would poor Father Flynn, who was so basically decent, survive in the parish where they were all obsessed with the Holy Well or would he get a more relevant posting. I so enjoyed meeting them all again and I think the readers like it too.

Q: Irish culture is known for its storytelling, both in the oral and written tradition. Do you also enjoy telling stories out loud? Are you the life of the dinner party?

A: The Irish do love telling stories and we are suspicious of people who don't have long complicated conversations. There used to be a rule in Etiquette Books that you invited four talkers and four listeners to a dinner party. That doesn't work in Ireland because nobody knows four listeners.
I do talk a lot at dinner parties- I hope not too much but then I love other people to talk also. I am edgy and anxious when people just nod and smile instead of having views on every subject under the sun.

Q: Your books capture the culture of Ireland. Although Ireland has not escaped the recent economic downturn, how has Ireland's rapid growth- finally joining the ranks of the world's wealthiest countries following centuries of poverty- influenced your storytelling?

A: Ireland changed a great deal in my lifetime. People became much more wealthy because of being members of the European community. The influence of the Catholic Church changed- once we feared the clergy and were in awe of them and now it is much easier and more communal. Once no foreigners came to work here since there wasn't enough work for ourselves, but now it's multicultural and you could hear twenty languages being spoken all around you. It has been a great help to the country and given us all more confidence.

Q: Your first book was published in 1982. Has your writing process changed over the years? How do you continue to challenge yourself?

A: When I started writing I used to concentrate on the 50s and 60s when I was young, but I needed to try to become more modern and catch up on today's Ireland. So I started to watch the young Irish people and talk to them as if they were a different tribe, which in many ways they are!

I discovered that they are not so different to my generation, they have more freedom, more responsibility and more courage than we had but they also have areas of uncertainty and unrequited love as we all did.

Q: What are you working on next?

A: I am working at the moment on writing a three page outline for another novel. I must make it interesting enough for the publishers to like it and give me the go ahead. It should be in the same style as the books I have already written but not visit the same topics and repeat myself.

Q: Describe a typical day spent writing. Do you have any unusual writing habits?

A: A typical day is breakfast (grapefruit and Irish soda bread and tea), then on to a big bright work room upstairs. [My husband and I] both try to be at our desks there at 8:30 am and we work until 1 pm. This includes answering mail and filing. We have a secretary one day a week. Then when work is over we have lunch and play a game of chess- we play seven days a week and have been doing so for over thirty years and we are still hopeless at it but love it to bits.

Q: With two writers in one household, do you and your husband give each other feedback or work separately?

A: We have one long desk in our study upstairs- Gordon (Snell) is at one end and I am at the other. He writes his children's books and verses I do my stories. We always read each other our work in the afternoon. The rules are that we must be honest. No false praise. We allow the other ten minutes sulking time if we don't like what we've heard. But then we have to accept or reject the criticism. No one is allowed to brood over it!

Q: What are you reading now? What are some of your favorite books and authors?

A: I have just begun Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates, which seems terrific. There are so many but off the top of my head here are some names of authors I love: Ann Tyler, Harlan Coben, Lee Child and David Baldacci.
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Reading Group Guide

1. Have you read any of Maeve Binchy's other books? If you've encountered any of these characters before, how did this new novel deepen your understanding of them? If you haven't, which characters would you like to spend more time with?

2. It's clear what the “heart” of the title refers to, but who—or what—is the “soul”?

3. The heart clinic is the embodiment of a new idea that advocates teaching people about their health without having to go to a hospital or to a doctor who may not have much time to spend with an individual patient. Why do you think the heart clinic is a good idea? Is there such a thing in your town or neighborhood?

4. There are many different mothers in the novel. Who does Binchy portray as a good mother? In what ways? Which mother would you most like to have as your own?

5. How are Binchy's mother-daughter relationships different from her mother-son ones?

6. Why does Clara find it easier to be kind to Ania than to her daughters Adi and Linda?

7. Clara is a firm believer in the “curative powers of being busy” [p. 25]. How does this affect her in her career? In her personal life?

8. It is very difficult to make decisions about your parents when they are older. Was Hilary right to try to keep her mother at home with her?

9. There are two car accidents in the novel. How does each one change the course of the story?

10. What role does the “new Ireland” play in Heart and Soul? Is Quentins part of the new Ireland and if so how? What other aspects of this novel reflect the new Ireland?

11. Discuss the bigotry Ania faces, especially by Rosemary. In what ways is the treatment of new immigrants different in Ireland than it is in this country?

12. Several of the women have had relationships with abusive and entirely untrustworthy men. How does their prior history affect their current romances? Are these relationships healthier than the previous ones because of the men involved, or have the women themselves changed?

13. The pharmacist, Peter Barry, seems as if he would be a good husband. What made Clara realize that he wasn't the man for her? Do you think she was right in her decision?

14. On page 191, Ania says, “I like this word peaceable. . . It's what I would like to be.” Does she achieve this goal? How does her new-found peace help in her encounters with Rosemary?

15. Was Eileen Edwards genuinely delusional, or do you think she had another reason for blackmailing Father Flynn? What did you think of Johnny's solution to Father Flynn's problem? Who benefited the most from the resolution?

16. Twice in the novel, characters state, “We always regret what we don't do, rarely what we do do.” Who follows this code to the greatest advantage? Is there anyone who should apply it but doesn't?

17. Who is the most contented character in the novel? The most disappointed? What role does money play in their happiness?

18. On page 514, Declan says to Rosemary “May you get what you deserve.” Does she? Which of Binchy's characters doesn't?

19. Who was your favorite character and why?

20. What do you imagine happens next between Clara and Frank?

(For a complete list of available reading group guides, and to sign up for the Reading Group Center enewsletter, visit www.readinggroupcenter.com)

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 4, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A REWARDING BLEND OF LAUGHTER AND TEARS

    For many audio book aficionados Sile Bermingham may well have become the voice of Maeve Binchy and the endearing characters the author creates. I remember with great pleasure Bermingham's reading of Whitethorn Woods - concise, pure, perfectly enunciated with clarity to spare. Such is the case with her narration of Heart and Soul. Once again she embodies the characters, bringing a distinctiveness to each.
    A lifetime member of the Actor's Studio and no stranger to stage or screen she has given a multitude of laudable performances, such as the roles of Jody in 2.22 and Lilly in Griffin & Phoenix. She brings much of her professional training to her narrations, and we listeners are the beneficiaries.
    Fans of Maeve Binchy know that she has the gift of bringing both laughter and tears to readers/listeners. (I'm thinking especially of Scarlet Feather). Her characters are seldom the rich or the famous but quite ordinary folks which makes her stories all the more accessible and meaningful to most of us. Dr. Clara Casey is a good case in point. She has taken on the task of establishing a new heart clinic at St. Brigid's Hospital. Thus, we follow not only the staff but the lives of the patients who enter the clinic's doors.
    Add to this Clara's personal life - two grown daughters who bring worries and Clara's former husband is also on the scene. As in most hospitals there are a multitude of drama that occur each day - there is distress, fear, loss, love, the gamut of human experiences. However, all is in the capable, caring hands of Maeve Binchy.
    Enjoy!
    - Gail Cooke

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted April 20, 2009

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    Posted February 8, 2009

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    Posted March 12, 2009

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