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Fiction Binchy’s latest a cozy, satisfying tale of Ireland

  • Published Sunday, April 21, 2013, at 8:48 a.m.

“A Week in Winter” by Maeve Binchy (Knopf, 336 pages, $26.95)

“A Week in Winter” by Maeve Binchy is a gratifying, blustery read full of rich characters, a sea-spray setting and a compelling plot that carries the reader from start to end.

Binchy is known for her development of loveable and secret-keeping Irish folk. Think “Circle of Friends.” She’s written numerous novels featuring her native country, Ireland, and she’s got a cozy style that allows her readers a chance to curl up and enjoy her tales.

“A Week in Winter” goes perfectly with a cup of tea. The characters, while at first seeming separated by more than distance and circumstance, find commonalities and help each other grow. Watching the way Binchy weaves their lives together is a special treat in itself.

Her eccentric cast of characters is believable and not without special quirks. Geraldine “Chicky” Starr fabricates a fantasy and family life for herself in New York, one that the inhabitants of Stoneybridge, her hometown, cling to. In fact, they praise Chicky for her hard work, steadfast fidelity to her “husband” and for coming back to Stoneybridge in the end.

Upon returning 20 years later, Chicky gets roped into purchasing, renovating and establishing a quaint bed and breakfast in the small town’s Stone House, formerly owned by the unconventional Sheedy sisters, Miss Queenie the only remaining of the three.

With the help of Miss Queenie, along with Chicky’s extended family and long-lost friends, Stone House becomes one of Binchy’s characters, with its drafty rooms and stone hearth. The house, like the rest of the characters, evolves; a once run-down monolith in the town of Stoneybridge, the doors open wide and serve as a welcoming spot for travelers and some of the town’s former outcasts to come together, to build their lives.

As the people of Stoneybridge and the visitors to Stone House reveal more about themselves to one another, it’s clear that each will, no matter their present circumstances, come out OK. It seems that there’s nothing Chicky, one of her visitors or the quaint locale can’t fix.

With “A Week in Winter,” Binchy has created a book that envelops its reader in the same calming serenity that Stone House provides its inhabitants.

Shelly Walston teaches English and journalism at Maize South High School; she lives in Wichita.

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