“A Week in Winter” (Alfred A. Knopf, $26.95) is author Maeve Binchy's final novel. She died shortly after finishing the book.
Her fans will not be disappointed, as it is written in the classic Binchy style, filled with eccentric and endearing characters.
Chicky Starr grows up in Stoneybridge, on the west coast of Ireland. When she is a young woman, she meets an American traveling through the area. Against her family's wishes, she follows him to New York.
They live a hippie lifestyle with other young people, until one day the American moves on without her.
Rather than tell her family the truth, she pretends to be married to him for 20 years.
In reality, she works at a boardinghouse all that time, until she saves up enough money to return to Ireland and buy Stone House, an imposing but rundown mansion, previously owned by the Sheedy sisters.
She tells her family that her husband was killed in a car accident.
Starr desires to turn the house into a hotel, and with the help of friends and family, the house is refurbished and readied for guests.
Her first guests come during winter to commune with nature and enjoy the comfort and peacefulness.
The author tells their stories, one by one.
There's Rigger, who got into trouble in Dublin, and is working for redemption and reconciliation with his mother, Nuala.
Winnie is a woman whose fiance has insisted she go on vacation with her future mother-in-law, with whom she shares a mutual dislike.
Henry and Nicola are doctors disillusioned with patient deaths.
John is a famous American actor traveling incognito.
Freda, a librarian, is afraid of her physic powers.
Anders, heir to a Swedish accounting firm, would rather play music.
The Walls are a couple who entered a contest with a trip to Paris as the first prize. But they won second prize, a week in Stone House, and are resentful about it.
And, finally, there is Miss Howe, a retired schoolteacher who is bitter and mean.
At the end of the week, with the change of scenery and care and comfort provided by Starr and other members of the staff, most of their problems are sorted out.
The only exception is Miss Howe, a woman her colleagues said is her own worst enemy.
The book is full of warmth, humor, friendship, redemption and love. It is too bad that it's the last novel of this prolific author.
— Betty Lytle