Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Goodbye to Maeve Binchy

It is with genuine sadness in my heart that I write this post, my last at this location.  I woke today with the news that Maeve Binchy, one of my most treasured authors, passed away yesterday after a short illness. 

My romance with her works began in high school when my mother gave me Light a Penny Candle, Binchy's first novel, to read.  I was immediately drawn to the charming warmth of the writer, and her characters literally bloomed upon the page, becoming real before my eyes.  Shortly after that, my mom took me to our nearest bookstore for my birthday, and I remember grabbing every single Binchy book off the shelf, piling them high in my arms.  An older woman passed by and asked, "Is she good?"  And I replied, "Yes, she's wonderful."

And she truly was.

Oh, Maeve, you will never know how much you meant to a girl growing up on the edge of San Antonio, as far from the green hills of Ireland as you can possibly get.  How I sat reading your books through my high school classes, through the pep rallies, the football games, and the ceaseless chatter of my classmates.  My senior year English teacher noticed your books on my desk, and introduced me to your fellow Irish writers, Brian Friel, Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, and W.B. Yeats.  It always comes back to Yeats, in the end, doesn't it? 

You were a talented and prolific writer, and best of all, you wrote what you knew.  Nothing was off limits, and you covered the topics that affected real, everyday people plucked off the streets of Dublin and all the tiny little towns dotting the countryside of your beautiful island.

It didn't matter that Benny, the main character in Circle of Friends, grew up half a world away, half a century before I did.  She was me, and her struggles and coming-of-age experiences were my own.  You knew that, and your great talent lay in your realistic descriptions of your characters and their ordinary lives.  We saw ourselves in your books, and we were comforted by your words.

Thank you for sharing so much of yourself with your readers throughout the years.  You wrote for all of us, across the world, and we loved you for that.   I was fortunate enough to read all of your books except one, and it is sitting on my shelf, waiting to be opened tonight.  I'm grateful that it's there to comfort me, because there won't be more coming now.

Sweet Maeve, you left us too soon.  But the skies over Ireland are brighter tonight because of your words. 

(Visit The National Gallery of Ireland's site to see a gorgeous portrait of Maeve Binchy by Maeve McCarthy.)