January 24, 2022 review:
I still love this collection. No updates really from my original review.
I bought this when it first came out and read it. I could have sworn I posted a review, but realized I had not. I did a re-read of this the past two days so thought this was a good time as any to write about the short story collection that Binchy put out about “Chestnut Street.” This was mentioned in “Minding Frankie” and it’s funny that part of me wondered about the people we heard about from that stand alone. Per usual, here are my ratings of the individual stories. I ultimately gave this 5 stars since Binchy had way more wins then misses IMHO in this one. There are a few stories that didn’t resonate, but there’s not a lot of those.
Dolly’s Mother (5 stars)-A young girl that feels a bit dull compared to her glamorous mother who realizes that not all is what it seems with her mother.
It’s Only a Day (5 stars)-The one thing I will say about this collection is that the decades jump around a bit in some of the stories so sometimes you don’t know when the story is supposed to take place. This one obviously takes place in the 1950s and 1960s and we have three young girls with different ideas of marriage. All of those ideas change up a bit or stay the same though as they get older. The main character I guess you can say in this one is Maura who ends up being with a man who doesn’t see the point in marriage. But then you get to see how Maura feels when she sees all of her friends getting married and trying to get along with their families.
Fay’s New Uncle (5 stars)-Really good short story following a young woman who finds out about an uncle she never knew she had, Mr. James O’Brien who lives in 28 Chestnut Street. One thing that Binchy does is that some characters appear or are referenced in other stories in this collection. Mr. O’Brien is brought up a few times.
A Problem of My Own (4 stars)-This was funny, but a bit weird I thought. A teacher who gets tired of her friends and schoolkids coming to her about their problems so she decides to get into some trouble so she has something to complain about to others. Like I said it was weird, but the ending was funny as anything which is why I gave it 4 stars.
All That Matters (4 stars)-I felt sad at the end of this one. A young girl called Nessa finds out that her worldly sophisticated aunt is not as she seems. I don’t know if Nessa really sees how her life is going to change at the end of the story. Instead she seems focused on her aunt and her life. I think that both of them needed therapy when I finished this one.
Joyce and the Blind Date (3.5 stars)-Not a bad short story, just not really keeping in with the theme of neighbors I thought. A model named Joyce meets a man that she thinks should be following all over her and he’s not. She’s kind of terrible I thought, and then you get the man’s POV and I don’t even know what to say there.
Liberty Green (5 stars)-We get to follow a character from childhood through her 40s who has a lot of changes after she realizes that her parents need to give her the freedom to explore things. When her life doesn’t quite go as planned, she ensures that she allows her two children the same freedom.
The Cure for Sleeplessness (3 stars)-This read a bit samey to another story in a different collection. Pretty much the cure is doing other things instead of trying to sleep. It just didn’t do much for me.
Miss Ranger’s Reward (3 stars)-Eh. I didn’t like the main character in this one.
Decision in Dublin (5 stars)-I liked this one a lot. A woman looks back at what made her turn her back on her family. When her son is older though he wants to return to Dublin and she thinks through the fact her son may be making the same mistakes that she did.
The Wrong Caption (3 stars)-This was a silly story about a woman obsessed with captions in newspapers and then about her wedding. It was a little all over the place.
Star Sullivan (4 stars)-This one was a little sad in my mind. A young girl who really doesn’t understand how terrible her family is in some ways who just wants everything to go well. The ending was a little weird I thought and we don’t revisit her to know what happens next.
Taxi Men Are Invisible (5 stars)-Very solid story with a taxi man that lives on Chestnut Street who keeps running into the same couple(s) in this one and is able to actually influence things for one of them.
A Card for Father’s Day (2.5 stars)-Very short and just eh. I thought it could have been cut.
The Gift of Dignity (5 stars)-A good story that really hit home about the secrets that people keep from each other. And you have to worry about the damage it all causes in the end.
The Investment (5 stars)-I liked this one. A young girl gets involved with someone that her family despairs of. They send her off to the states where she meets another young man who she doesn’t care for. When the money she needs to return home to her boyfriend comes up missing, she is left knowing who took it. The story then follows her as she gets older and the boyfriend becomes her husband.
The Leap of Faith (4 stars)-Not a bad story. Three women come together to see about staying together in one house after they all go through some personal changes in their lives.
Lilian’s Hair (5 stars)-I liked this one, but we hear about Lilian again and again throughout this collection so one wonders did she make a good choice or not.
Flowers from Grace (4 stars)-Interesting story about a group of friends and how their New Year’s Eve plans fall through.
The Builders (3.5 stars)-This was already a standalone short story I read before and this one ends abruptly and doesn’t show the full ending in the short story I read.
Bucket Maguire (4 stars)-A man who seems to just give and give as others in his life just take.
The Older Man (3 stars)-Not a bad story, just kind of blah I thought after what came before it.
Phillip and the Flower Arrangers (4.5 stars)-This one was definitely interesting. A young man who gets told he is heading for a nervous breakdown, has one, and then gets caught up in flower arranging of all things.
Reasonable Access (4.5 stars)-A good story about a family that is torn apart over the father’s infidelity. I liked that this one was told from the child’s POV.
By the Time We Get to Clifden (3.5 stars)-This story was so bizarre.
The Women Who Righted Wrongs (4 stars)-I liked this one about two friends who exchange wrongs made against them and make the people in question play. A little riff on “Strangers on a Train” I thought.
The Sighting (5 stars)-Two men who find out more than they bargained for about their parents marriage.
The Lottery of the Birds (5 stars)-Another story about a woman trying to twist herself into what she thinks the man she is seeing wants. I am glad that she got told off by her colleagues. The main character really does give up everything to constantly be on call to her boyfrien.
Madame Magic (3.5 stars)-Not bad, it really just gives you updates on characters that have been introduced in other stories.
Say Nothing (5 stars)-A great story about a mother who learns the hard way to say nothing when it comes to what her daughter does and does not do. I thought the ending was pretty good in this one.
Eager to Please (2 stars)-I was so confused while reading this one.
Seeing Things Clearly (5 stars)-A young woman who finally sees her relationship for what it is.
Fair Exchange (4 stars)-Great story about an older woman who teaches a young boy how to cook and he teaches her about the internet/phone/computer. I liked how this one ended too.
The Window Box (5 stars)-The main character reminded me a bit of the “mean” woman in one of Binchy’s Lilac Bus stories. She is joyless and cheap and begins to realize she may be missing out on her life. Don’t expect a 180 here.
Finn’s Future (4.5 stars)-Told via the point of view of the new wife to a man named Dan and how Dan is constantly being shut out of his son’s life (Finn). I liked the ending on this one too.
One Night a Year (5 stars)-A story following characters who meet up once every year on New Year’s Eve/Day. I really enjoyed this one and thought it was a great story to end on.