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Heart and Soul    by Maeve Binchy order for
Heart and Soul
by Maeve Binchy
Order:  USA  Can
Knopf, 2009 (2009)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

I am sad. I wanted even more. I have just finished the last page of Maeve Binchy's newest book, Heart and Soul. Definitely another winner. I have read all of her novels since I discovered Light a Penny Candle (her first) years ago. If you aren't familiar with her work, why not? This woman is a premier storyteller who can weave tales of everyday life and confirm readers as devoted fans by the end of the first chapter.

One of her wonderful special skills is to give walk-on parts to beloved characters from previous books. It's like greeting old friends. She introduces new folk and lets them carry the storyline, while weaving previous players in and around the action. Said action is low key but such that the reader quickly begins to care what happens to each and every one of the players.

Dr. Clara Casey is placed in charge of a heart clinic attached to a hospital in Dublin. As she hand picks her staff, she hires Ania, a young Polish girl in desperate need of work. The girl becomes necessary to the running of the clinic, keeping the place clean and the records in order. Ania had a sad love affair in Poland. Fiona brings her past with her also - a vacation in Greece that went bad with the wrong man. Clara and her husband are separated but he won't leave her alone. He wants a divorce so he can marry the mother of his expected child.

This all sounds so bleak, but Binchy tells the stories in such a way that this reader felt there was hope for them all. The patients and their spouses also make an appearance. And, of course, each book must have an overbearing woman who feels she is at the top of the heap even though she had to climb through the muck to get there. I wanted to punch her in the nose.

The sense of place that comes with reading Binchy's books is comforting. Dublin becomes familiar, while Ireland's countryside and foods also seem a part of our own lives. I have been fortunate enough to travel to Ireland and so these books bring lovely reminiscences of my numerous trips there. Reading Maeve Binchy's many novels will make Ireland seem just as familiar to you.

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