The Return Journey is a collection of 14 short stories of life, love, and learning that enables the most harried reader to enjoy a well-told tale in its entirety before checking on the kids or folding the clothes. In the tradition of Binchy's classic tales Circle of Friends and Tara Road, this consummate summer beach book introduces readers not to models of literary and romantic indefectibility, but to folks just like us, who have bad hair days, runs in their hose, and freckles both physical and metaphorical. The title story paints a portrait of the embattled relationship between a mother who left her home in Dunglass, Ireland, and her daughter, who has traveled to Ireland to find her history and finds love, as well. Through weekly correspondence, mother and daughter repair the damage to their relationship, laying to rest ghosts of an earlier mother-daughter relationship gone irrevocably wrong. And Binchy's "Victor and St. Valentine" renews faith that truly romantic men do exist and are often overlooked, their motives suspect in an increasingly self-reliant world. No one can accuse Binchy of overtelling a tale; she has perfected the art of leading her readers to the verge and then allowing them to loose their imaginations as they see fit. A wonderful and thoroughly engaging read. --Alison Trinkle
--This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Not without reason is Binchy (Evening Class; Circle of Friends) most popular for her novels, as this unimpressive collection of short stories linked by the theme of travel-and-learn indicates. Although the time is now and the place usually Dublin, the writing is dated, dependent on such romantic-comedy movie devices as mistaken identity, switched suitcases, confidante becoming lover, the stranger who upsets all the old balances, the surprise presence of Mum at the restaurant of the out-of-the-way hotel intended for a tryst. The most promising of the batch is the title story, a series of letters between a mother who left Ireland and her daughter, the young woman who has gone there to see the village her mother grew up in. The characters here have depth and secrets not immediately apparent. The conflicts between mother and daughter mirror the conflicts the mother has about her homeland. Unfortunately, the remaining 13 stories touch on formulaic generational and gender misunderstandings. The characters are established early, the predictable plot mechanisms uncoil like the proverbial spring and the conclusions are socked home, often in a chirpy manner.
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