Book Review: Whitethorn Woods
By: Maeve Binchy
Published By: Anchor
Publication Date: March 2010
Page Count: 339
Audience: Adult - Contemporary
This is another Binchy novel that uses one setting to tie together the threads of multiple characters' stories. The town of Rossmore lurks in the Irish countryside and has always enjoyed a vigorous tourist trade due to the sacred well in Whitethorn Woods. People come from miles away to make wishes at the well which is known for its healing powers and the ability to help prayers be heard. A new road threatens to create a bypass that will leave Rossmore off the main thoroughfare and will trample the beloved Whitethorn Woods requiring that the shrine to St. Ann be demolished. Whitethorn Woods is truly a novel that focuses on whether tradition or progress is more important to a community.
I enjoyed getting to know the inhabitants of Rossmore as well as the pilgrims who visited the shrine. The colorful cast was memorable and it was nice to see references to characters such as Father Flynn who made appearances in other Binchy novels. I found myself craving a trip to rural Ireland after reading this one. I'd love to be able to open the pages of a Binchy novel and walk right in. There were some characters who illustrated the negative aspects of human nature; I would certainly want to avoid these characters in the my fictional travels.
One Last Gripe: Due to the vignette style, I didn't get to spend as much time with favorite characters as I would have liked.
Favorite Thing About The Book: I love how Binchy ties her setting together with such interesting characters.
First Sentence: Father Brian Flynn, the curate at St. Augustine's, Rossmore, hated the Feast Day of St. Ann with a passion that was unusual for a Catholic priest.
Favorite Character: Neddy
Least Favorite Character: Dr. Dermot
When a new highway threatens to bypass the town of Rossmore and cut through Whitethorn Woods, everyone has a passionate opinion about whether the town will benefit or suffer. But young Father Flynn is most concerned with the fate of St. Ann’s Well, which is set at the edge of the woods and slated for destruction. People have been coming to St. Ann’s for generations to share their dreams and fears, and speak their prayers. Some believe it to be a place of true spiritual power, demanding protection; others think it’s a mere magnet for superstitions, easily sacrificed.
Father Flynn listens to all those caught up in the conflict, as the men and women of Whitethorn Woods must decide between the traditions of the past and the promises of the future.