Grace After Henry

Grace After Henry by Eithne Shortall

Grace and Henry are buying a house together in Dublin when Henry is killed in an accident. Grace eventually moves into their new home, goes back to work at a café and spends time with the three wise men at Glasnevin Cemetery, widowers who tell jokes and garden. Poignant and moving, this novel also has a lot of comic relief and a strong sense of place. Grace spends time walking through Phoenix Park remembering Henry, and plays television bingo with her new neighbor Betty. When a man comes to repair her boiler, Grace is stunned to meet Henry’s double. Andy turns out to be Henry’s twin brother, adopted and raised in Australia, in Ireland looking for information on his birth mother. Andy wonders what his life would have been like growing up in Ireland, while Grace gets to tell Andy funny memories about Henry. Grace is reluctant to tell her parents or best friend Aoife about Andy, even though she shares other news. While it deals with grief, this novel is also an enjoyable page-turner, and is a good readalike for The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman.

Maeve Binchy, 1940-2012

Novelist Maeve Binchy has died at the age of 72. Beloved by her many fans since her first novel, Light a Penny Candle, was published in 1983, her heartwarming novels and short stories are set in Ireland, London, and Greece, and are known for their well-drawn characters and good storytelling. Tara Road was the first novel to have a million copy first printing, and was later made into a movie, as was Circle of Friends. She delighted her readers by coming out of retirement in 2002 and wrote five more books. Her book for aspiring writers, Maeve Binchy Writer’s Club, contains some short stories readers may have missed. Minding Frankie was her most recent book; see my review here. Brenda

Minding Frankie

Minding Frankie, by Maeve Binchy

Young slacker Noel Lynch is astonished to be named guardian of baby Frankie by his former girlfriend Stella, who is dying of cancer. Fortunately, his American cousin Emily has just come to visit Dublin, and is staying with Noel’s parents, Josie and Charles. Emily is a great listener, and has a knack for giving practical advice. Noel joins AA, starts night school, and learns how to take care of a baby. Noel’s parents and assorted neighbors agree to help with babysitting, including local doctor Declan and his wife Fiona, expecting a baby boy. In night school Noel meets Lisa, a graphic artist who’s fallen in love with a young chef, Anton. Lisa moves in to help babysit, but social worker Moira is suspicious of the whole situation and wonders if baby Frankie wouldn’t be better off in foster care. There are a lot of characters and a number of other plotlines is this heartwarming novel, but they all blend together into a delightful read that’s a perfect stress reliever.