Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Maeve Binchy - Minding Frankie

Baby Frankie is born into an unusual family. Her mother is desperate to find someone to take care of her child and she doesn't have much time. Noel doesn't seem to be the most promising of fathers but despite everything, he could well be Frankie's best hope. As for Lisa, she is prepared to give up everything for the man she loves; surely he's going to love her back? And Moira is having none of it. She knows what's right, and has the power to change the course of Frankie's life...but Moira is hiding secrets of her own.

MINDING FRANKIE is a story about unconventional families, relationships which aren't quite what they seem, and the child at the heart of everyone's lives...

Comment: Back in April I finally read one book by this author I had been given and it was surprisingly appealing to me. After finishing it, I've looked at the author's books and realized there were familiar character's names in the blurb of this one. Of course that meant if I had to try another one to see if I were to like it as I did with the other, this had to be it, for it seemed it would be a sort of sequel...

In this book, some characters from Heart and Soul do show up to be part of the plot, but the focus changes mostly to a new cast whose main goal is to help Noel, a recovering alcoholic to take car of Frankie, his newborn baby, right after her mother died as soon as she gave birth. Throughout the story we follow the lives of several characters as they go on with their lives despite how Frankie's existence has forced them all to change a few things, not just Noel himself but his parents, his neighbors, among others... even Moira, the social worker with prejudices from her past who believes there is something odd going on and Noel might not be Frankie's best choice for a happy future...

I had a good time reading this book. I wouldn't go as far as to say this is the best book ever but it fits my idea of a cozy, comfortable read, as if I'm just chatting with a group of people who always have something to say, something to share and while we idly talk, we eat some cookies and have some tea and times passes by without hassle, without rush. This is the scene I imagine when I think of this author's books (having read only two, though) and I do plan on reading more.

The plot of this book is like this too: a continuous share of situations, decisions, moves, thoughts, etc, which allow us to follow several characters and their daily routines. I can see why this might not work for some, there are many characters, yes, some don't have such an important role as others when it comes to the central issue/plot point, but I feel that by knowing and following each one of them somehow, the bigger picture gets more complete, and the whole story feels richer.

In this book, taking care of Frankie, minding her, is the big issue. The fact her father admits he has a drinking problem and takes the steps to try to work it out, means she has someone to set an example, no matter how flawed some decisions might appear, but she also has a large group of people who, by one reason or another, are there to help and to create a good support system in which a baby can be taken care of but that also will work as a good family to be part of. I really liked this idea, the fact you can start your life being part of something special, even if you are not aware of it so soon in your life.

There are complicated subjects being discussed, and some characters go through more difficult situations than others. The multiple POV doesn't allow the reader to feel too much for one in detriment of the others, though, and even when some moments might seem too hard or focuses on negative situations, there is always something lighter, some cute or funnier scene afterwards to even things out and make the reader realize that's life, a mix of good and bad things...

I'd say the two characters I, nevertheless, struggled more to identify with were Moira and Lisa. Moira is a social worker who seems to be too rigid although very professional, and as the plot advances, we slowly start to understand why. I can understand her personality and why she behaves so harshly in some regards to her work. However, she was a bit too morose and hard to sympathize with. Lisa is a clever woman who makes (in my opinion) a bad choice even if one can, as the book comes to the end and she finally accepts it, see why she had to go through that learning experience. I still think her situation dragged too long and I started to not appreciate her indecision.

In fact, one could say the story's biggest problem is how it might seem to drag in several moments. I can see this but at the same time I wasn't bothered because, like I said, I enjoyed spending time with the characters, seeing a little bit of their lives... things aren't all perfect nor all negative but at some point, it feels a bit repetitive and unlikely. Still, many scenes are touching and sweet and make you think about life in general, and I feel this style suits my preferences, my personal taste.

Grade: 8/10

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