Friday, April 1, 2011

Book Review: Minding Frankie

One of the wonderful things about a Maeve Binchy book is how she takes a group of seemingly random and odd people and brings them together, weaving their lives in and around the stories, backgrounds and circumstances they each have. The quirks of the characters that people her books don’t make them seem odd; they only endear them to you as you read their stories and help you to see that, if you don’t know someone quite like them, you’ve come across many with the same idiosyncrasies.

Minding Frankie is the story of a neighborhood in Dublin, Ireland that is one of those peculiar little areas where everyone knows everyone else and their business and accepts each other for who and what they are. When Noel Lynch, an alcoholic who has distanced himself from his parents and works in a mind-numbing job, discovers that a woman he barely remembers is pregnant with his child it is a shock. But to find that that same woman will not live past the delivery and is asking him to take on the raising of their daughter it completely turns his life upside down.

On top of this his cousin Emily comes from America and seems to take a firm hand in the lives of everyone in the neighborhood and suddenly things are different for them all. As Noel prepares for the birth of his daughter a support system is born to help him sober up, take classes to improve his position in his company, and to step in and help in minding Frankie, the little girl who is soon to be the center of so many lives.

Binchy, an Irish writer, is very good and bringing people to life in her books. One of the treasures of reading her other novels is that characters and situations from them wend their way into each other, and Minding Frankie is no exception. Dr. Clara Casey from Heart and Soul is here, as is Father Brian Flynn from Whitehorn Woods and Muttie and Lizzie from Scarlet Feather and many others. It’s fun to get reacquainted with people I came to know and love in her other novels, and hope to meet up with Noel, Frankie and his friends and neighbors in future books.

Being Irish there are times in her books, and this one is no different, that she makes subtle errors in writing about Americans that I personally found charming. For example, an American would never say, "I'm going for a lie down," or use phrases like "going to lectures." We "take naps" and "go to class."  I'm sure that when we write about Europeans we probably use the odd turn-of-phrase as well. It does not detract from the story.

Be forewarned that you will need a few tissues when you read Minding Frankie. It is a novel filled with love and hope and the feeling that anything is possible if you open yourself to it and allow those who love you to help you through.

Above all Minding Frankie is a testament that it does, indeed, take a village to raise a child.

I'm already a fan of this author, but this particular book touched me deeply. I don't know if it's because I am a mother myself, or if as I get older I can relate to a wider variety of people, but this is a book I would not hesitate to read again in the future. If you have the opportunity to pick up one of Maeve Binchy's books, and Minding Frankie in particular, you won't be disappointed.

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