By Maeve Binchy
(Random House, $26.95)
Reviewed by Rose McAllister Croke
Beloved Irish author Maeve Binchy finished the manuscript for “A Week in Winter” days before she died in July after a brief illness. Her final novel, published posthumously, shows Binchy at the top of her writing game. Set in a small, fictional Irish coastal town where everyone knows each other, Binchy introduces us to a plucky, resourceful middle-aged woman named Chicky Ryan, who works tirelessly to fulfill her lifelong dream to buy the decaying Stone House mansion and build it into a holiday resort.
To mark the resort’s opening, Chicky advertises a special deal — a week in winter on the west coast of Ireland. The first group of guests starts to arrive, and we learn all of them have different reasons for staying there. They include:
An American movie star who misses a connecting flight and decides to take a brief holiday in Ireland. He wrongfully assumes he is incognito since his fellow guests don’t make a huge fuss over him;
A retired schoolteacher who exudes negativity with each breath she takes, and criticizes everything and everyone she encounters;
A young Swede, who must decide whether to head the family business or follow his heart;
A mother and would-be daughter-in-law who have been forced into taking a vacation together, with all the tension and uneasiness that implies;
A married couple, both doctors, who find themselves at a spiritual and professional crossroads, having witnessed far too much sickness and death.
Binchy writes beautifully about the importance of community and of people being restored to life, especially after their dreams and plans fail or when their worries and fears consume them. “A Week in Winter” is a bittersweet read for Binchy fans, many of whom will savor her final book and lament all of her untold stories. A literary treasure in the truest sense, Ms. Binchy will be missed.