Monday, November 28, 2011

Minding Frankie

by Maeve Binchy
May 28 - June 26, 2011

Minding FrankieI've read every single book Maeve Binchy has ever written. Her prose is so silky and charming that you actually start to hear the Irish accent in your head as you read. Quite a few years ago (I don't really remember how many), it was announced that Binchy was retiring. She had written her last book. I was sad. But imagine my delight to find that it was somehow untrue....or maybe she changed her mind...because she has written several books since. Each title fails to disappoint and I'm always able to devour them quickly. Unfortunately for Minding Frankie, this was not the case.

All of Binchy's past books have sweet, wholesome undertones that I find quite welcoming after a heavier read. In reading other reviews I found the perfect description of how her books make me feel: "Reading a Maeve Binchy novel is like settling in for a cozy visit with an old friend." But this one took on a little darker tone than I would have liked, and I actually question why the sudden change from my beloved author. As I read along I couldn't help but have a sense of dread and worry for the characters; Frankie and her father, Noel, in particular.

Noel is an alcoholic who suddenly learns that he is about to be a father. The mother of his child is dying, and has asked him to raise Frankie (already not a comfy, familiar situation like Binchy's other titles). When Frankie is born, Noel does his very best to make a proper home for his daughter. He enlists the help of an American cousin and the kind people in his neighborhood. That's one thing I do love about Maeve's books – the recurring characters. While Noel has vowed to quit the drink and be a proper father, a social worker continues to interfere and waits impatiently for him to fail. Of course everything works out for the best in the end...true fans of Binchy wouldn't have it any other way, but getting there was definitely not a fun, relaxing journey. I'm just not sure I can recommend this one.

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Saturday, November 26, 2011


by Emma Donogue
May 17 - 28, 2011

Room: A NovelWow. What a book. Told from the point of view of a 5-year old boy; it took me a few chapters to get used to his language. But once I acclimated, I flew through this one.

Jack knows nothing but the Room he has lived in with his mother since the day he was born. Jack's perspective is that of a vast, yet cozy home he shares exclusively with Ma. To Ma, Room is a prison in which she has been held captive for years. Despite it all, Ma still tries to make life as normal as possible for her son. Unfortunately, Old Nick's nightly visits are a harsh reminder of their true reality.

The overall premise and lives of the protagonists is truly disturbing, but somehow, when narrated by a little boy, it works. The first few chapters were excruciating as I learned more and more of their situation and Jack's definition of "normal." Halfway through, I was routing for their rescue; followed by a disbelief that the story could in any way end well. Donogue does a fantastic job keeping the reader guessing and wholly intrigued. Her prose was poetic and profound ... the kind you continue to think about long after the last page is turned. I found this line to be particularly striking:

"It's what we believe about ourselves that determines how others see us."

So true, right? Upon their escape (no, that's not a spoiler; you know it's going to happen), Jack makes a statement that proves he is truly a wise, old soul.

"Her laughter was a wondrous, liquid thing that splashed across my face, over the toes of my shoes, and into the grass."

While Room was released in September 2010 and I may be a little late with my review, if you haven't read it, make sure it immediately gets on your list.

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