Maeve Binchy was born in County Dublin and educated at the Holy Child convent in Killiney and at University College, Dublin. After a spell as a teacher she joined the Irish Times. Her first novel, Light a Penny Candle, was published in 1982. She went on to write many bestsellers, including Minding Frankie, Heart and Soul, Whitethorn Woods, Circle of Friends and Tara Road, which was an Oprah's Book Club selection. She also wrote for Gourmet; O, The Oprah Magazine; Modern Maturity; and Good Housekeeping, among other publications. Maeve Binchy received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the British Book Awards in 1999 and the Irish PEN/A.T. Cross award in 2007. In 2010 she was presented with the Bob Hughes Lifetime Achievement Award at the Bord Gáis Irish Book Awards by the then President of Ireland, Mary McAleese. She was married to the writer and broadcaster Gordon Snell for 35 years and died in 2012, shortly after finishing this book.
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Excerpted from the Hardcover Edition
Everyone had their own job to do on the Ryans’ farm in Stoneybridge. The boys helped their father in the fields, mending fences, bringing the cows back to be milked, digging drills of potatoes; Mary fed the calves, Kathleen baked the bread, and Geraldine did the hens.
Not that they ever called her Geraldine—she was “Chicky” as far back as anyone could remember. A serious little girl pouring out meal for the baby chickens or collecting the fresh eggs each day, always saying “chuck, chuck, chuck” soothingly into the feathers as she worked. Chicky had names for all the hens, and no one could tell her when one had been taken to provide a Sunday lunch. They always pretended it was a shop chicken, but Chicky always knew.
Stoneybridge was a paradise for children during the summer, but summer in the West of Ireland was short, and most of the time it was wet and wild and lonely on the Atlantic coast. Still, there were caves to explore, cliffs to climb, birds’ nests to discover, and wild sheep with great curly horns to investigate. And then there was Stone House. Chicky loved to play in its huge overgrown garden. Sometimes the Miss Sheedys, three sisters who owned the house and were ancient, let her play at dressing up in their old clothes.
Chicky watched as Kathleen went off to train to be a nurse in a big hospital in Wales, and then Mary got a job in an insurance office. Neither of those jobs appealed to Chicky at all, but she would have to do something. The land wouldn’t support the whole Ryan family. Two of the boys had gone to serve their time in business in big towns in the West. Only Brian would work with his father.
Chicky’s mother was always tired and her father always worried. They were relieved when Chicky got a job in the knitting factory. Not as a machinist or home knitter but in the office. She was in charge of sending out the finished garments to customers and keeping the books. It wasn’t a great job but it did mean that she could stay at home, which was what she wanted. She had plenty of friends around the place, and each summer she fell in love with a different O’Hara boy but nothing ever came of it.
Then one day Walter Starr, a young American, wandered into the knitting factory wanting to buy an Aran sweater. Chicky was instructed to explain to him that the factory was not a retail outlet, they only made up sweaters for stores or mail order.
“Well, you’re missing a trick then,” Walter Starr said. “People come to this wild place and they need an Aran sweater, and they need it now, not in a few weeks’ time.”
He was very handsome. He reminded her of ho
“Delightful. . . . Radiates the warmth and charm that fans will recognize and relish.” —USA Today
“A hopeful, loving novel chronicling lives shaped by good deeds, small favors, and honest counsel along the rocky crags of the Irish coast.” —The Daily Beast
“A gratifying, blustery read full of rich characters, a sea-spray setting and a compelling plot that carries the reader from start to end.” —Wichita Eagle
“Reading this novel is like ducking out of a cold rain into a fire-warmed pub filled with laughter.” —People
“If you read this book you will feel like you know every rock and view in Stoneybridge, and will likely wish you could visit this bleak-but-mesmerizing place, perhaps even in winter. . . . If you love Binchy's quiet stories, you will not be disappointed with this one.” —Huffington Post
“A restorative read.” —Richmond Times-Dispatch
“Spell-binding. . . . Shows [Binchy] at the height of her powers.” —IrishCentral
“Maeve Binchy has once again created fully realized characters in quick, short strokes. . . . [The book contains] a philosophy of common sense and wisdom, both of which we’ve come to expect from Binchy.” —The Toronto Star
“All the characters spring to vivid life on the page, and all the stories are engaging.” —The Irish Times
“Heartwarming and spirit restoring. . . . In classic Binchy-style, the gentle story is populated with a large cast of often eccentric, always endearing characters. . . . Stone House, a country inn on the West Coast of Ireland serves as the cozy setting for these interrelated tales of love, loss, friendship, and community. . . . Pour yourself a cup of tea, put your feet up, and prepare to savor this bit of comfort food for the soul.” —Booklist
“Welcome territory for those looking for a feel-good read.” —Publishers Weekly
“Classic Binchy. . . . Peek[s] into the lives of characters from various walks of life brought together at a newly opened inn on the West Coast of Ireland.” —Kirkus Reviews