KIRKUS REVIEW -
A variable, posthumous collection of loosely linked short stories from the much cherished Irish writer who died in 2012.
Thirty-six tales of differing length, predictability and quality, generally focused on female characters—wives and mothers, partners, singletons, daughters and friends—make up this late addition to the Binchy oeuvre and explore domestic problems ranging from cranky relatives and problem children to unexpected attractions, and, most often, insensitive and/or faithless men. Binchy’s wise insights and wicked humor are visible now and then, for example in the cheerily sparring dialogue of “Fay’s New Uncle” and the teacher looking for mischief in “A Problem of My Own,” but too often there’s a sense of datedness, superficiality or simple fairy tale. Homilies are delivered often: about freedom in “Liberty Green,” about finding a real father figure in “A Card for Father’s Day,” about being over-organized in “Flowers from Grace.” Nevertheless, the author’s compassion extends widely, notably to the many cheated-upon wives, girlfriends and children, as in “Taxi Men Are Invisible,” when a driver finds himself observing an affair, or “Reasonable Access,” which views divorce from the confused child’s point of view, or “The Gift of Dignity,” one of the few longer, more emotionally complex stories, which contemplates, from a friend’s perspective, a silent wife’s possible collusion in her husband’s adultery. Chestnut Street itself, a semicircle of 30 small houses in Dublin, plays a minor but constant role, as safe harbor to the nurse, the window cleaner, the couples, families and loners and, in “Madame Magic”—a typically tidy offering—a substitute fortuneteller who turns Melly’s empty house into a busy home.
For Binchy aficionados, a late indulgence; for others, slim pickings.
KIRKUS REVIEW -
Baseball’s greatest relief pitcher reflects on his just-concluded surefire Hall of Fame career.
When a modern-day ballplayer insists he doesn’t play for money, that personal statistics don’t matter, or that he’s never cheated, heads will shake and eyes will likely roll. It’s a measure of the esteem in which he’s held that Rivera tends to be believed. Over his 19-year career with the Yankees, Rivera became the all-time saves leader and won five World Series. Along the way, he conducted himself with such humility that he earned the love of his teammates, the deep respect of opponents and the admiration of fans. This memoir demonstrates why. With the help of Coffey (co-author, with R.A. Dickey: Wherever I Wind Up, 2012, etc.), Rivera recounts his childhood in Panama, his progress as “a bottom-of-the-barrel” prospect to and through the major leagues, and his inviolable game-day routine. He touches on his many, thrilling career highlights, but he spends as much time on those occasions where, as the most reliable closer in the game, he failed. It’s no surprise to read his admiring, affectionate assessments of teammates—Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte, Paul O’Neill, Bernie Williams and especially Derek Jeter—and of his respect for opponents like Edgar Martinez and Dustin Pedroia, but Rivera makes a place for less-glittering names as well: his mentor Chico Heron, his saintly wife, Clara, Yankee trainer Gene Monahan and minor league teammate Tim Cooper. Rivera mildly criticizes his high school math teacher, an anonymous Westchester County homeowner, Roger Clemens, Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano but otherwise saves any harsh remarks for himself, “an imperfect man on an imperfect journey.” The author’s preternatural calm clearly stems from a deep religious faith some nonbelievers will find disquieting, explaining his devastating cut fastball as a gift from God, his belief in miracles and his conviction that the Holy Spirit once spoke to him on the mound.
Will be devoured by Yankees loyalists and happily sampled by all baseball fans.
From Booklist -
As a writer, Lila Emerson is fascinated by people. So when her latest house-sitting job provides the opportunity to observe the neighbors in the building across the street, Lila can’t resist. It is all innocent fun until late one night when she happens to glance across the street and sees one of the couples she has been watching involved in a violent fight. Before Lila can reach the phone to call for help, the woman falls to her death. The police initially rule the case to be a murder/suicide, but when Lila later crosses paths at the police station with artist Ashton Archer, the brother of the alleged murderer, he tries to convince her that his brother would never kill anyone, much less commit suicide. Much to her surprise, Lila finds Ash makes a good case for his brother’s innocence, and that case only becomes stronger once the two find themselves targeted by a ruthless killer determined to tie up any loose ends. Roberts is performing at the top of her literary game, and the novel’s opening nod toward Rear Window should clue readers in to the fact they are in for an addictive blend of sleek suspense and sophisticated romance that would make Hitchcock proud. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: With over 200 books that have sold more than 400 million copies around the globe, it’s easy to do the math: Roberts has another best-seller on her hands. --John Charles