Synopses & Reviews
Maeve Binchy is back with a tale of joy, heartbreak and hope, about a motherless girl collectively raised by a close-knit Dublin community.
When Noel learns that his terminally ill former flame is pregnant with his child, he agrees to take guardianship of the baby girl once she’s born. But as a single father battling demons of his own, Noel can’t do it alone.
Fortunately, he has a competent, caring network of friends, family and neighbors: Lisa, his unlucky-in-love classmate, who moves in with him to help him care for little Frankie around the clock; his American cousin, Emily, always there with a pep talk; the newly retired Dr. Hat, with more time on his hands than he knows what to do with; Dr. Declan and Fiona and their baby son, Frankie’s first friend; and many eager babysitters, including old friends Signora and Aidan and Frankie’s doting grandparents, Josie and Charles.
But not everyone is pleased with the unconventional arrangement, especially a nosy social worker, Moira, who is convinced that Frankie would be better off in a foster home. Now it’s up to Noel to persuade her that everyone in town has something special to offer when it comes to minding Frankie.
"Bestseller Binchy is a national treasure in her homeland of Ireland, and her latest novel is a perfect illustration of why. Old-fashioned and newfangled are totally compatible in contemporary Dublin, where lonely, hard-drinking slacker Noel Lynch discovers he's about to be a single dad now that the one-night-stand/mother of his child, Stella, is dying. Suddenly, the salt-of-the-earth residents of St. Jarlath's Crescent and Noel's resourceful American cousin, Emily, spring into action to keep Noel sober, fire up his ambitions, appease militant social worker Moira, and help raise baby Frankie. It's a hair-raising, heartwarming juggling act for Noel, his quirky roommate Lisa, do-gooder Emily, and a neighborhood crowded with eccentric characters and adorable pooches including one with a handsome inheritance. Binchy (Heart and Soul) straddles improbable and possible in her touching saga, and if your mind can't quite wrap itself around St. Jarlath's Crescent, your heart will have no trouble recognizing the landscape. (Mar.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
Maeve Binchy is back with a tale of joy, heartbreak and hope in a close-knit Dublin community.
When Noel learns that his former flame is terminally ill and pregnant with a child she claims is his, he agrees to take care of the baby girl once she’s born. But as a recovering alcoholic whose demons are barely under control, he can’t do it alone. Luckily, he has an amazing network of family and friends who are ready to help: love-starved Lisa, who becomes his round-the-clock partner in little Frankie’s care; his American cousin and pep-talker Emily; and the many eager babysitters from the neighborhood, including old friends like Signora and Aidan, Dr. Declan and his parents.
The unconventional arrangement works out beautifully—until a nosy social worker becomes convinced that Frankie would be better off in a foster home. Now it’s up to everyone in town to persuade her that each of them has something special to offer when it comes to minding Frankie.
About the Author
1. Have you read any of Maeve Binchy’s other novels? How does this one compare?
2. If you’ve read other Binchy books, which characters did you recognize? Are there any you’d like to see in a future novel?
3. There are many parents in the book. Who would you say does the best job, and why?
4. There are a number of recent retirees, voluntary and otherwise, who become an important part of Frankie’s life. What kind of roles do her grandparents, Josie and Charles, take on? What about Dr. Hat and Muttie? More generally, what do the very young and the very mature have to offer each other? Which generation do you think needs the other more?
5. “Emily told herself that she must not try to change the world. . . . But there were some irresistible forces that could never be fought with logic and practicality. Emily Lynch knew this for certain” (page 22). What “irresistible forces” does she mean? How does she fight them?
6. It’s clear what Noel gets from his relationship with Emily, but what does she get? How does the effect of alcoholism bond them?
7. Discuss Lisa’s relationship with Anton. Why is she so oblivious to his less attractive qualities? What is her turning point?
8. Why is Moira so obsessed with Frankie’s fate? Is it just fear, or is there something more going on?
9. How does Moira define “family”? How does Emily?
10. Lisa says to Moira, “I have a lot of worries and considerations in my life, but minding Frankie sort of grounds me. It gives it all some purpose, if you know what I mean” (page 239). Among Frankie’s caretakers, who else might say this?
11. Discuss the ethics of Moira’s dealings with Eddie Kennedy. Should she have told him about her father?
12. Anton says to Lisa, “I’m not the villain here, you know,” and she responds, “I know. That’s why I’m angry. I got it so wrong . . . ” (page 314) What does she mean?
13. What did you think of Di Kelly’s reason for staying with her husband? What would you have done?
14. What is your opinion of Noel’s decision to get a DNA test? How would you have handled the results he received?
15. Many of the characters go through major upheavals in their lives. Who responds best, and why? Whose attitude changes the most?
16. What did you think of Stella’s letter to Frankie? What did we learn from it?
Reading Group Guide
“One of Binchy’s best works. She harmoniously handles a diverse group of characters, the good deeds that characterize life in Ireland are believable, and the ending is sweet. One hopes to find Frankie in one of Binchy’s future novels.” —Susan Rogers, Newark Star-Ledger
“Binchy’s world view is a large, benevolent one, and the reader is happier for it . . . bless her big Irish heart.” —Laurie Hertzel, Minneapolis Star-Tribune
“Maeve Binchy has done it again [with] yet another warm tale of individual growth and human community, [in which] she assembles a large cast of characters and deploys them with her characteristic playfulness . . . Binchy specializes in exploring human foibles without spelling them out in tiresome detail . . . There’s a good chance that many readers, like this one, will consider Minding Frankie one of Binchy’s best novels yet.” —Maude McDaniel, BookPage
“Joyful, quintessential Binchy.” —Karen Holt, O, The Oprah Magazine
“All across America, Maeve Binchy fans will be kicking off their shoes, making a nice cup of tea, and curling up on the couch as they re-enter Binchy’s cozy world. The Irish author returns here to a charming Dublin milieu of favorite characters from past novels, with some important new ones.” —Melinda Bargreen, The Seattle Times
“Binchy is a national treasure in her homeland of Ireland, and her latest novel is a perfect illustration of why.…Your heart will have no trouble recognizing the landscape [of this] touching saga.” —Publishers Weekly
“Reading a Maeve Binchy novel is like settling in for a cozy visit with an old friend. In vintage Binchy style, a cast of colorfully eccentric characters living in a snug Dublin neighborhood seamlessly weave in and out of each other’s lives, united by family, faith, friendship and community....Readers will need a box of tissues handy as the good-hearted residents of St. Jarlath’s Crescent prove that it does indeed take a ‘village to raise a child.’” —Margaret Flanagan, Booklist
The questions, discussion topics, and reading list that follow are intended to enhance your reading group's discussion of Minding Frankie, Maeve Binchy’s warm and engaging new novel.