Minding Frankie by Maeve Binchy

Set in modern-day Dublin, Maeve Binchy’s Minding Frankie chronicles Noel Lynch’s dramatically changing life as he learns that a former fling is pregnant with his child and is dying of lung cancer. Though struggling with alcoholism, Noel takes custody of the little girl, Frankie, and with the help of his American cousin Emily, builds a support system of family, friends and neighbors all willing to help watch Frankie. The only person not happy with these arrangements is Moira Tierney, the social worker in charge of Frankie’s case, who believes the little girl would be better off in foster care.

Here, Binchy explores how everyone in a community can positively contribute, as Noel and his neighbors work to disprove Moira’s belief that a “proper” home consists of a mom and a dad: sometimes it really does take a village to raise a child.

Binchy deftly creates an intriguing and diverse cast of characters, from problem-solving Cousin Emily to the uptight social worker, Moira. True to current events, Binchy does not shy away from Ireland’s economic troubles and their influence on the lives of several people in the novel. Though it may take new readers a while to figure out who’s who, loyal Binchy fans will recognize some of these characters from previous works.

With a nice balance of hilarious, poignant and everyday moments, Minding Frankie is the perfect book for a leisurely spring weekend.

– Kristin Romano (383 pages / Knopf / $26.95)