The tiny hamlet of Rossmore seems to be a village that progress passed by. But that changes when a new highway project threatens to destroy St. Ann's Well, a religious shrine and the Irish town's only tourist attraction. Maeve Binchy's sage Whitehorn Woods captures the first-person stories of townspeople grappling with their own problems as well as this moment of civic transition. As always, Binchy's realistically etched portraits seem perfectly tailored for a wide reading audience; different readers will identify with different characters.
A proposed highway near the Irish town of Rossmore will mean the destruction of St. Ann's Well, a shrine in Whitethorn Woods thought to deliver healing, husbands and other miracles. The shrine resides in the parish of Fr. Brian Flynn, curate of St. Augustine's. As a fracas erupts between shrine skeptics who want the highway and shrine believers who want the shrine preserved, Flynn, unsure of where he stands on the issue and questioning his place in an increasingly secular Ireland, goes to the shrine and prays that he might "hear the voices that have come to you and know who these people are." Binchy (Tara Road) goes on to deliver just that: a panoply of prosaic but richly drawn first-person characters, such as Neddy Nolan, a not-so-simple simpleton; 60-something Vera, who finds love on a singles trip meant for those much younger; and unassuming antiques magnate James, whose wife of 26 years is dying. Stories of greed, infidelity, mental illness, incest, the joys of being single, the struggles of modern career women, alcoholism, and the heartbreak of parenting span generations, simply and poignantly. Binchy takes it all in and orchestrates the whole masterfully. 400,000 announced first printing. (Mar.)Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
In classic Binchy style (Nights of the Rain and Stars), many diverse characters tell their own, sometimes overlapping, stories in separate chapters, beginning and ending with Catholic priest Brian Flynn in the small Irish town of Rossmore. Teenaged to elderly, rich to poor, good to bad, all characters have some connection, however slight, to Rossmore, where controversy is brewing over a proposed highway bypass. The new road would run right through the woods surrounding the cave that houses St. Ann's Well, an unofficial shrine that attracts prayerful petitioners and is a thorn in Father Flynn's side. After the unprincipled obliviously reveal their own moral failings in their own words, readers will want to call their mothers or spend time with elderly relatives to be more like the decent, unassuming, author-approved characters, or at least more like those who manage a change of heart before the end. An enjoyable peek into other people's thoughts, this new novel by a beloved author will make a good book group choice. An essential purchase for any women's fiction collection; for all public libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ11/1/06.]
Laurie A. Cavanaugh Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Binchy (Quentins, 2002, etc.) inserts questions of faith into her usual romantic braid of multiple storylines, in this case concerning the troubled residents, former residents and descendents of residents of an Irish town where an obscure shrine faces demolition. Father Brian Flynn, his commitment to the priesthood already shaky, is furious at the superstitious faith people place in the shrine at St. Ann's Well outside Rossmore, but after visiting the shrine himself, he vows to hear and help his parishioners himself. Then a proposed new highway threatens to run right through the site of the well. The efforts of Father Flynn and his congregants, particularly the saintly Neddy Nolan, whose practical wisdom has been mislabeled as simpleminded, to resolve the highway dilemma form the plot that snakes around a slew of subplots. These are often fully realized stories that stand on their own. Some of the characters actually visit the well, like the two pairs of lovers who together find a perfect living arrangement thanks to the shrine, or like Father Flynn's sister Judy, who returns home to pray for a husband. Others, like the insane Becca, who arranges for the murder of her romantic rival, and her mother, who sells Becca's story to the tabloids, live in Rossmore but pointedly do not visit the shrine. The majority share only a geographical connection to Rossmore, as in the case of Emer and Ken. Although their story smacks of heavenly intervention, the intermediary who kindles Emer and Ken's romance is a gallant cab driver, not St. Ann. In Binchy's world, well-meaning characters find happiness while an ungrateful son or an adulterous husband can expect comeuppance. Her sentimental morality may bepredictable, but Binchy's lilting Irish zest is undeniably addictive. First printing of 400,000; Book-of-the-Month Club main selection
“A tour de force. . . . Binchy is in top form.” –The Seattle Times
“Binchy’s best read in a decade.” —The Globe and Mail
“Love, longing, and rich scenes of daily life. . . . What could be sweeter than a trip to [an] Irish village packed with robust native characters.” –The Christian Science Monitor
“A remarkably gifted writer [and] a wonderful student of human nature.” –The New York Times Book Review
“Binchy makes you laugh, cry and care.” –San Francisco Chronicle
“Binchy is a grand storyteller in the finest Irish tradition. . . . She writes from the very heart.” –The Plain Dealer
“An engaging read.” –Daily News
“Binchy can channel Irish voices with the best of them, and each of those voices has its own twisting story to tell.” –The Columbus Dispatch
“Reading one of Maeve Binchy’s novels is like coming home.” –The Washington Post