Saturday, January 28, 2012

Book Report: Minding Frankie by Maeve Binchy

It's always exciting when one of your favorite authors comes out with a new book.  So, I was delighted when I saw this Maeve Binchy paperback peering out at me at the grocery store.  The title, Minding Frankie, wasn't new to me, as I'd bookmarked the hardback version on Amazon and had had a chance to form some ideas about the story.  I'd envisioned a nostalgic saga set in the 1950s and 1960s about a single mother raising a little boy in an Irish village.  They'd have their struggles, but the laughter would outweigh the tears, and all would be well in the end. 

The real story turned out to be much the same in tone if not detail.  Minding Frankie is set in present-day Dublin and stars a recovering alcoholic, Noel Lynch, whose casual ex-girlfriend tells him that she's dying and pregnant with his daughter.  Noel is a serious but directionless sort, a one-time artist with a dead-end job who, at thirty, still lives with his parents.  (I pictured him as Joseph Gordon-Levitt.)  The story had the potential to be a downer, but because this is a Binchy book, I knew that bright beginnings were on the horizon.  Which is to say that Noel, albeit reluctantly, takes on the baby girl.  And moves into his own apartment.  And enrolls in college.  And acquires a roommate in the form of the warm but flighty Lisa Kelly.  (I pictured her as Katherine Heigl.)  As with all of Binchy's novels, an amusing cast of characters is threaded throughout the plot.  Some are granted happy endings; others require lots of tissues.  But all are interesting and enrich Noel and Frankie's story.

Although I had the ending pegged as predictable, it proved to be more realistic than the tidy stock finale I had in mind.  I appreciated this on an intellectual level but was a little disappointed emotionally.  This fly in the ointment notwithstanding, I enjoyed Minding Frankie.  It was cozy and comforting and kind, all the things I've come to expect from Binchy.

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