Thursday, July 3, 2008

TARA ROAD by Maeve Binchy

Maeve Binchy's Tara Road is the sort of book that you read while sipping tea by a cozy fire. It's literary comfort food with no big surprises. Ria Lynch, her handsome husband Danny, and their two children are residents of a gentrified Dublin neighborhood. Ria is the mother hen of a diverse cast of characters, mostly women, including Gertie, the wife of an abusive drunk, and the successful, beautiful, unmarried Rosemary. Everyone's problems are aired in Ria's bustling kitchen, but secrets figure largely into the relationships between the characters, especially secrets that could cause pain if they were revealed. Ria's world is blown apart when Danny leaves her for his young pregnant girlfriend, and Ria impulsively jumps at an opportunity to swap houses for two months with Marilyn, an American woman living in New England. Marilyn is the exact opposite of Ria and has become even more aloof following a tragedy that she can't bring herself to speak of. Each woman overcomes her grief in the other's home. It's a sweet, enjoyable read, despite its predictability. The unsavory characters are duly punished, and the good ones prevail.

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