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Whitethorn Woods    by Maeve Binchy Amazon.com order for
Whitethorn Woods
by Maeve Binchy
Order:  USA  Can
Knopf, 2007 (2006)
Hardcover, Softcover, CD

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* *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Maeve Binchy's latest offering, Whitethorn Woods, is a delightful collection of short stories tied together with a single thread that runs through the village of Rossmore, Ireland.

Father Flynn, curate of St. Augustine's, is the constant in these stories about how a new highway (that might be built to bypass the village) would affect Rossmore. At the same time, it would no doubt destroy the Whitethorn Woods and St. Ann's Well. The Well is thought to have magical powers, so that one can petition St. Ann for favors. Father Brian Flynn has those from both sides of the controversy - of whether this is good for the village or bad - asking him for his opinion. He would rather sit on the fence.

Many other residents tell their stories of wife abuse, a stolen child, yearning for a mate, living on a kibbutz, wanting the best for their children, and wishing to be cured of one thing or another. A cab driver advances the cause of romance. In turn, his career takes a sudden turn. A beautician ruins another's hair and dissolves into hysterics. A woman realizes her mother had spent twenty-four years thanking her husband for something and believed that was love. An older woman seeks a change in her life and embarks on a singles holiday. A nurse prefers working with the elderly and makes a business of it. Traditions are hard to give up but the future is upon the villagers and must be acknowledged.

Seemingly ordinary stories are told with heart, a great understanding of human nature, and with the grace that Binchy brings to her work. Whitethorn Woods is Maeve Binchy at her best.

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