Did you know that books can be a competitive sport? I’ve never been a successful competitor type, but I did take a chance during a professional dinner last summer. One of the publishing professionals at the table asked what everyone was reading. When it was my turn I gulped, held my breath, and blurted, “Patrick Swayze’s, The Time of My Life — he was an incredible renaissance man. Did you know?” There was a batting of eyelashes and an uncomfortable pause before someone rescued my confession of such pedestrian reading and shared that a friend of hers had been the book’s agent; she concurred, as well, that Patrick was not only an actor, but an amazing dancer, athlete, human being. So you might be able to understand why my love for Maeve Binchy‘s novels is a little secret I’ve kept under wraps from my reading-and-writing colleagues. Her popularity is a given, but there are those discerning souls who would never include it in a canon of literature.
After finishing her non-fiction The Maeve Binchy Writers’ Club, a book that was “inspired by a course run by the National College of Ireland, … comprises twenty letters from Maeve, offering advice, tips and her own take on life as a writer, in addition to contributions from top writers, publishers and editors,” I searched out her mailing address, jotted it down on an index card, and kept it on my bedside table with plans to write to her a fan letter ‘some day.’ And then she died. Suddenly. Another reminder of that adage, “do not put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” I berated myself for procrastinating, sad to have missed the opportunity to let Ms. Binchy know how much I valued her advice to up-and-coming writers, about the hours of relaxation and pleasure her novels have given me.
Maeve completed the manuscript for A Week in Winter shortly before her death. The day publication was announced on her facebook author page, I joined the library loan queue.
During a recent sun-filled morning, I joined Corabelle on the loveseat, A Week in Winter and fresh cup of decaff in hand. As I read the final chapter, swirling in the back of my mind was the question “What is it that I love about these stories so much?” In the village lifestyle of my childhood on Nantucket Island, one could manage without a car and walk or bicycle anywhere. I think I’ve been craving and searching for that way of living ever since.
This is what I find it in Maeve’s novels, what keeps pulling me back to them. There’s a sense of a village amongst each book’s cast of characters. A restaurant or bed-and-breakfast or neighborhood center, pulls everyone together, whether they are related by blood or not. I simply love being there with them, watching their lives unfold.
So there. My secret’s out. … What are you reading and loving right now?