Friday, August 2, 2019

The Library at the Edge of the World by Felicity Hayes-McCoy

Reviewed by Jeanne

Hannah Casey is not a happy woman.

 She thought she’d left the rural Irish village of her youth far behind when she married Malcolm Turner and moved to London.  Malcolm was a successful barrister, they had a beautiful home that Hannah tastefully decorated, and they had Jazz, the daughter they both adore.

Then came the divorce, and Hannah found herself living in her mother’s back room with Mary Casey’s critical eye on her every move, and “I told you so” hanging over most interactions.  Too proud to take alimony, Hannah has found work as a librarian in nearby Lissbeg to make ends meet, but now with Jazz leaving home, being cooped up with Mary is almost more than Hannah can bear. She needs a place of her own, and she actually has one—a house her Aunt Maggie left her.  The problem is that it’s a ruin, having been left deserted for years.  It needs a lot of fixing up just to become livable, and that’s going to cost money.

It doesn’t help that Hannah doesn’t really have friends.  Angry and humiliated by the end of her marriage, Hannah holds people at arm’s length.  Colin, the book loving young farmer who works part time at the library, is wary of Hannah’s moods but as his mother says, anyone who lives with Mary Casey is entitled to be moody. Still, Colin rather likes Miss Casey so tells local handyman Fury O’Shea that Hannah has a house to fix up.

Which is why there is now a goat at Hannah’s house.

The Library at the End of the World is light but enjoyable book, the first in the Finfarran series. Hayes-McCoy has created a wonderful set of characters, from prickly Hannah to the irascible Fury O’Shea to hypercritical Mary to sweet innocent Colin. She gives every one of them a voice, letting the reader see each from his or her own perspective.  It’s definitely the story of a community, one with which many of us can identify:  the end of the Celtic Tiger economic boom, leaving people in small towns struggling to make ends meet. Young people especially are torn between wanting to stay and the lack of opportunity; and they aren’t being helped by government decisions made far away, with little concern for the people most affected.

There’s humor, frustration, and a bit of wish fulfillment; I don’t think it’s giving anything away to say you can expect a happy ending.  I found it all very satisfying.  However, not all loose ends are tied up neatly, and I wanted to know what happens next.  Good news-- there are four more books in the series.  Bad news—only the second has been published in the U.S. but I have high hopes we’ll be following the adventures of Hannah, Mary, Jazz, Colin, and (I hope!) Fury O’Shea.

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