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Whitethorn Woods (Vintage) Mass Market Paperback – January 29, 2008


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Product Details

  • Series: Vintage
  • Mass Market Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor (January 29, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307278417
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307278418
  • Product Dimensions: 4.3 x 1.3 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (154 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,150,313 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A proposed highway near the Irish town of Rossmore will mean the destruction of St. Ann's Well, a shrine in Whitethorn Woods thought to deliver healing, husbands and other miracles. The shrine resides in the parish of Fr. Brian Flynn, curate of St. Augustine's. As a fracas erupts between shrine skeptics who want the highway and shrine believers who want the shrine preserved, Flynn, unsure of where he stands on the issue and questioning his place in an increasingly secular Ireland, goes to the shrine and prays that he might "hear the voices that have come to you and know who these people are." Binchy (Tara Road) goes on to deliver just that: a panoply of prosaic but richly drawn first-person characters, such as Neddy Nolan, a not-so-simple simpleton; 60-something Vera, who finds love on a singles trip meant for those much younger; and unassuming antiques magnate James, whose wife of 26 years is dying. Stories of greed, infidelity, mental illness, incest, the joys of being single, the struggles of modern career women, alcoholism, and the heartbreak of parenting span generations, simply and poignantly. Binchy takes it all in and orchestrates the whole masterfully. 400,000 announced first printing. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Nestled outside the once sleepy Irish village of Rossmore in a copse known as Whitethorn Woods is the shrine of St. Ann's Well, which attracts so many of the faithful and hopeful that the little town overflows with visitors. This prompts a controversial proposal to construct a bypass highway that would divert traffic, ironically, right through the Woods, thus destroying the source of the town's popularity. Worried that the shrine's days are numbered, villagers flock to the Well, where they plead for everything from the restoration of a faltering love affair to the recognition of an ancestor's legacy. Foregoing her trademark plot-driven narrative for a tale in which the outcome is predictable (will the shrine be saved? duh!), Binchy instead focuses her prodigious talent on a robust assemblage of characters embroiled in romantic and domestic crises. Inventively and intricately weaving a series of linked vignettes, Binchy astounds with the versatility of the supplicants' voices, from the diabolical machinations of a mother whose daughter has committed murder to the sad serenity of another whose child was kidnapped decades earlier. Binchy is at her best in this tender yet potent tale of a traditional land and people threatened and challenged by the forces of change. Carol Haggas
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

More About the Author

Maeve Binchy is the author of numerous best-selling books, including Nights of Rain and Stars, Quentins, Scarlet Feather, Circle of Friends, and Tara Road, which was an Oprah's Book Club selection. She has written for Gourmet; O, The Oprah Magazine; Modern Maturity; and Good Housekeeping, among other publications. She and her husband, Gordon Snell, live in Dalkey, Ireland, and London.

Customer Reviews

So good I didn't want it to end.
Mary A. Rusch
In fact, it is one of her better-written collection of short stories that all have a common place threaded through each of their stories.
Busy Mom
I like the effective character sketches, as well as the development of the story itself.
M. F. Drummond

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

46 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Lesley West on September 18, 2006
Format: Paperback
This is, as is usual for Mave Binchy, quite a delightful book. But for those of her fans who treasure her in-depth family stories, where each person in the book becomes quite well known, this may seem a little disappointing.

The heart of the book refers to an ancient well in an Irish village, that over the years has been dedicated to Saint Anne. The village which surrounds it needs a new bypass road, and there is a strong possibility that the well will be destroyed in the name of progress.

At the heart of the book is the family that owns the land, including the woods where the well is located, but as the book progresses we touch on the lives of many people who have been exposed to the town, the well and each other. Most chapters are dedicated to two people, who usually have some sort of relationship, and we are treated to their differing perspectives. Frequently, as is the case with Ms Binchy's other books, their lives are strangely intertwined with others, but at other times less so.

It is as always quite charming, and I can recommend it. If others don't give it 5 stars, it is because it is a little different from her other works, but it is worth perservering with and wonderfully enjoyable!
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52 of 55 people found the following review helpful By Busy Mom VINE VOICE on March 15, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Have you ever sat in a coffee shop and just watched people coming and going? Have you ever wondered what their life stories are? Where they are from, what their dreams are and whether or not they're heartbroken, or delirious in love? Have you ever just wished that you could hear their stories?

Binchy has always written about life ~~ stories that are just glimpses in other people's lives, dreams and hopes. This book is no different. In fact, it is one of her better-written collection of short stories that all have a common place threaded through each of their stories. Unlike her earlier novels (which focused on just one town and a small group of people over the course of their lives), this one is full of different characters in different stages of life and in different places. There's Father Bryan, the priest who absolutely hate St. Ann's celebrations. But he performs it because his parish asks for it. St. Ann is the mother of St. Mary, the mother of Jesus. There is a well in Rossmore, in the midst of Whitethorn Woods, that St. Ann presides over and seemly grant people's fervent wishes.

There is Neddy Nolan, "not-the sharpest knife in the drawer" whose farmhouse lies in the path of the new progressive road. He's married to Clare with secrets of her own. Then there's a 16 year-old girl from the US, June, who celebrated her 16th sweet birthday in Ireland; there's Lucky, her cousin who wanted to visit US but her parents wouldn't let her; there's Lily Ryan who has been abused all these years and now her husband's in jail. She had her baby kidnapped 23 years previously, and she prays at the well every single day. There's stories of love and friendship, career decisions, misunderstandings and forgiveness.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Timothy Kearney VINE VOICE on April 26, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Meave Binchy has written a number of warm and memorable popular books about Ireland. WHITEHORN WOODS belongs in this category. For this book, we meet Fr. Brian Flynn, the junior curate of a parish in Rossmore. Fr. Flynn is not a throwback to a the overused stereotypical Irish priest of an earlier generation. He's well aware of changing religious attitudes in his country as well as the faith lives of his people and is an authentic and likeable member of the clergy. Rossmore, like so much of Ireland, is rapidly changing. The sleepy town is becoming the home of chic stores, a new populace, and may possibly have a highway running through it. The problem? The highway would go through a beloved wooded area in the town and possibly destroy its most famous landmark, St. Ann's Well. The well is believed to be a place loved by St Ann, the mother of the Virgin Mary. People go to the well to pray for husbands and other miracles as well. Fr. Flynn is not sure how to handle the situation. He hates the superstition associated with the well and its removal would allow him to spend more time on matters he believes are far more important, but he also respects the sincerity of the people who worship at the well. We get a pretty good idea of how the novel will progress as we're reading, but we meet so many interesting characters along the way, it's enjoyable seeing how it will, or perhaps will not work out in the end.

Most of the novel is a collection of short stories and vignettes about the people who have visited the well. Some are rather funny, others tragic. We hear stories about weddings, marriages good and bad, lives scarred by alcoholism, kidnapping, untimely deaths, and just about every other possible situation of the human condition. Each voice is distinct and reflects contemporary Ireland.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 9, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I think you'll like this book better than any other that Maeve Binchy has written since Tara Road because of its original exploration of deep human emotions.

Before choosing to read Whitethorn Woods, however, please realize that the book is primarily a series of short stories built around the theme of making a wish. In most cases, the stories are tied together more to one another in her version/his version fashion than to the rest of the stories in the book. The ongoing link among all of the stories is that the characters have some connection to St. Ann's Well in Whitethorn Woods, a Christian-themed site of a pagan place of worship. A portion of the short stories also intersect with the theme of whether or not a new road will lead to the demolition of the well and the woods.

In other words, this is not a novel like you are accustomed to reading by Maeve Binchy such as Tara Road, Scarlet Feather, Quentins, and Nights of Rain and Stars.

I mention that point because I know that many readers who love novels aren't nearly as fond of short stories. And those who love short stories usually don't expect to find many connections between the stories in a collection.

There is a benefit, you can read one of these stories while you are in bed and reach a natural stopping point before you nod off. But in some cases, the first story in a sequence may create an irresistible desire to read the next story to see how things turn out. So you may end up being awake for 15-20 minutes longer than you expected.

If you are still interested, let me explain more. St. Ann (if you don't already know) is the mother of the Virgin Mary, who was mother of Jesus. The well in this case has a statue of St. Ann, but the well's connection to the saint is tenuous because St.
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