Author: Maeve Binchy
Minding Frankie is the latest Number One Bestseller from the Irish storyteller Maeve Binchy, and what a storyteller she is. This is the first of her novels I have read and I think I’ve been missing out.
This is a heart warming and heart breaking story of love and community spirit. It demonstrates beautifully the concept of 6 degrees of separation and how everyone is connected, especially living in a relatively small community in Ireland.
Maeve fleshes out her characters very realistically and uses them to show us that regardless of your starting point you can turn your life around, find love in the most unexpected places and achieve anything you set your mind too. Mostly this is a story of the family that you choose for yourself.
Minding Frankie has quite a large cast of characters playing major roles in the story, which really is the story of Frankie. Most of the central cast are flawed but they are all the more lovable and relatable for that. A lot of the flaws we see in them stem from their upbringing and family issues which is the main reason they have all slotted so happily into the extended loving family they create.
To me, living far away from my family, that is what touched closest to my heart about this story. Unlike a lot of the main characters I have a very loving family though we are far apart; but I identify closely with the sentiment that blood doesn’t always have to be the major factor in making a family, sometimes the blood is the least important part.
The family living in St Jarlath’s Crescent – and made up of almost the entire street – is comprised of some blood relatives but they form smaller immediate groups in the larger family. The one thing all of them have in common is the sense that this family they have grown into is the best thing that could have happened to them.
Noel is a lonely alcoholic living at home with his very religious parents, showing very little interest or enthusiasm in anything until the day he received a call from the past that will change his life forever. Frankie gives him a reason to hope, to set goals and something to work for, after the initial fear and denial. Noel doesn’t seem to be the best choice to mind Frankie but he turns himself around and you will find yourself empathising with his fear and self doubt while you wish him well.
If finding you are to become a single father to a brand new baby only weeks before her birth isn’t hard enough, Noel also has to contend with his monotonous job, night school studies and problem drinking. Add to this the challenge of convincing a social worker that you are the right person to gain custody of this child and you were in a relationship with her mother when you don’t even remember spending the night with her.
This doesn’t even turn out to be the hard part. On paper there is no reason not to grant custody to Noel, but Moira the dedicated and professional social worker has a bad feeling. This bad feeling translates into behaviour that, in my opinion, borders on harassment and undermines Noel’s every effort at every turn. We sit back and watch all of this unfold in front of us, encouraging Noel to persevere and prove her wrong while we share his frustration at Moira and wish she would give him some peace.
As all of this unfolds we share in the lives of Noel’s diverse and numerous support network. We share in all of their personal journeys as we fit the people together like a jigsaw puzzle when we realise the extent of intertwining relationships. Some quite heart stopping plot twists as we get right into the thick of the story, almost enough to have me reaching for the tissues.
An insightful story that inspires faith in the sense of family that can be fostered in people, heart warming in the way that people rally around one another to offer support. A feel good story even with its many moments when things don’t look like they will turn out so well. A fabulous book to curl up with; anywhere, anytime.