by Mary Cadden)
For Maeve Binchy fans, Chestnut Street is a gift bequeathed to the reader from the late author, her widower, Gordon Snell, and her longtime editors.
Throughout her career, Binchy wrote many short stories that were connected to Chestnut Street, a fictional street in Dublin. She often returned to Chestnut, and the result is this delightful collection culled from published and unpublished stories.
Chestnut Street offers short fiction linked not in time or character but by place. These are secular parables where the focus is more on self-discovery than societal expectations. Binchy's prose is lyrical, carrying the reader along like a lullaby.
Chestnut Street may be fictional but it represents the real city of Dublin and, just like real life, is populated with an idiosyncratic cast of characters that span ages, gender and class.
Beginning with a young girl who discovers that her perfect mother is human after all, to an interesting twist on Strangers on a Train, to a makeshift family of strangers that gathers only on New Year's Eve, each tale offers a lesson about our preconceived notions and prejudices, themes that have been a Binchy hallmark.
This is the second work of fiction from the author to be published posthumously. The author of 17 other novels, including USA TODAY best sellers Circle of Friends and A Week in Winter, died in July 2012 after a brief illness.
Though this is Binchy's final work of fiction, it thankfully will not be the last work we will see from her. Maeve Times: In Her Own Words, a collection of her columns from her tenure at the Irish Times, is expected later this year.
By Maeve Binchy
Knopf, 368 pp.
*** out of four