Chestnut Street

Maeve Binchy. Knopf, $26.95 (336p) ISBN 978-0-385-35185-0
This posthumously published collection of stories revolving around an imaginary street in Dublin was written by Binchy (A Week in Winter) over a period of decades, and approved by her husband, writer Gordon Snell. The earlier stories are more developed than some of the later tales, but overall, the author gives us one last extraordinary look at ordinary people as they struggle with family relationships, romances gone awry, and the possibility for a better future. Standouts include the first story, “Dolly’s Mother,” in which a shy, unassuming teenager copes with having a kind, charismatic mother who is more popular than she is, and—as is revealed—might not be as perfect as everyone thinks. In “It’s Only A Day,” Binchy fondly portrays the transformation of three childhood friends into adults, using the lens of their disparate views on romance, as old-fashioned values find a place in their modern worlds. The book is filled with vignettes in which dissatisfied husbands leave their wives, but find their new lives wanting; disparate people find common ground, and even romance; and holding one’s tongue leads to the best way to make relationships thrive. While some entries come off more as character studies than actual stories, one finds here insightful observations about human nature—all with Binchy’s thoughtful and loving touch that will be sorely missed. (May)
Reviewed on: 02/24/2014
Release date: 04/22/2014
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