Heart and Soul, by Maeve Binchy
In Maeve Binchy’s Heart and Soul, we are immediately welcomed into a circle of warmth and comfort, as we are introduced to each character in this small “heart clinic” in Dublin, Ireland. Adjacent to the hospital, this newly created clinic offers after-care to heart patients–care with a very personal touch. Dr. Clara Casey heads up the clinic, but is known to all as “Clara.” This informality and the personal touch both irritate and gall the “money man” from the hospital side (Frank Ennis), who does everything in his power to thwart Clara at every turn.
Nevertheless, she is able to get the clinic up and running and surrounds herself with like-minded staff. Even her personal assistant (Ania), a Polish girl living hand-to-mouth until Clara takes her under her wing, is somewhat of a personal project. Desperate to escape a past of tragic mistakes, Ania is determined to earn enough money to send to her mother in Poland, and somehow alleviate the shame she believes she has brought upon her family.
Each staff member has an equally compelling back-story, and as the weeks and months pass, we become entwined in each of their tales–from the love-challenged Fiona and Declan to Clara’s own daughter Linda–until finally, we begin to see how the warm circle of love that surrounds Clara and her crew is like a family. We root for each family member and hope that they will find some happiness.
And we definitely hope that Clara will win the battle of wills with her anti-hero Frank–who, in the end, may not be as bad as we thought!
One intriguing aspect of Binchy’s books is how she brings in characters from other books, like the oddly fascinating twins Maud and Simon from Scarlet Feather. In this way, the reader is gifted with the cozy contentment that all of these characters are our friends. We expect that we will meet them again–somewhere around the bend, perhaps in another of Binchy’s books. And this evokes the desire to curl up with a cup of tea on a blistery day in a lovely sitting room.
Author of: Miles to Go, etc.
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