Rated Reads

Minding Frankie

by Maeve Binchy

Rated: Mild

Noel Lynch lives with his parents on St. Jarlath’s Crescent in a cozy area of Dublin. He has been drifting aimlessly for a while, leaving school and working a mindless job, and he manages to hide the fact that he drinks heavily every night from his parents. He’s not pleased with the arrival of his older cousin Emily from America; she notices immediately that he drinks and encourages him to stop and to make something more of himself.

Noel casually gives some thought to Emily’s ideas. But one day turns his world upside down and forces him to get serious: a girl with whom he spent a drunken weekend summons him to her hospital room and gives him huge news. She’s dying of cancer and about to give birth — to his baby.

With Emily’s further encouragement, Noel brings home his daughter from the hospital, joins Alcoholics Anonymous and takes a night class. He is aided by the whole neighborhood: family and friends take turns on a schedule minding Frankie as Noel works and goes to classes. Everything would be going pretty smoothly, actually, if it weren’t for the social worker assigned to the case. Moira Tierney is a cheerless woman whose whole life is her job, and she is absolutely sure that Noel is going to slip up and make a big mess of things. So she constantly drops in on Noel and asks relentless questions of neighbors, looking for a sign of the impending catastrophe. Her interference is stressful for everyone, particularly Noel, who finds he is coming to adore his little girl.

Maeve Binchy returns to favorite characters in her latest novel, allowing readers who have grown to care about Father Flynn, the Carrolls, the Scarlets and more to enjoy their company again. We rejoice when good things come to them and sorrow when illness strikes. Binchy is such a compassionate writer; she cares about her characters and allows readers to warm to them easily. Minding Frankie is another pleasurable outing to Binchy’s Ireland, populated with mildly quirky characters all making their way through their lives. It’s a delight.

Rated: Mild, for some uses of mild and moderate language. Sexual references are minimal; there is a reference to a prostitute but no sexual details.

— Reviewed by Cathy Carmode Lim

Cathy Carmode Lim has been reviewing books for newspapers for more than 20 years, two of which she was a book page editor. She founded Rated Reads in January 2008.

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  • Minding Frankie
  • by Maeve Binchy
  • Rated: Mild
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Reviewer: