Mourning Maeve


One of my favorite writers died earlier this week. Maeve Binchy, 72, sold more than 40 million copies of her novels and short stories, including her most famous, Circle of Friends and Tara Road.

I first discovered her work while rummaging around a Barnes and Noble store almost twenty-three years ago. I had a feeling I’d enjoy Circle of Friends after checking out the back cover copy. Immediately hooked, I went on a Maeve Binchy binge, eagerly gobbling up all of her previous novels.

Over the years, I took her with me on the train to and from work every day, on business trips, even to my mother’s house, so she, too, could enjoy the stories. I have every book available in the United States, plus a few of her short story collections.

Reading a Maeve Binchy novel is like a literary hug — warm and enveloping — but not sappy. Her tales of Ireland speak of everyday life, whether it was going off to college, swapping houses on a whim, or starting a restaurant.

Hers was a gentle writing style, but, please do not confuse this with weak. By no means was her work so light you could not find a universal truth in it anywhere or so tepid there was no feeling.

No, Maeve Binchy wrote about loss, love, infidelity, relationships, occupations, and expectations. She wrote what she knew, and it was wonderful.

Maeve Binchy, 1940-2012

I had the good fortune to meet her once, during an appearance at the bookstore down the street from my house, where she signed my copy of Evening Class. I didn’t want to gush all over her, so I wrote a letter saying how much I loved her work. A few months later, she wrote me back thanking me for my kind words. She used to write everyone back, not her assistant, mind you, but actually her.

Maeve Binchy was gracious and captivating. As soon as she spoke that day, everyone in the room was drawn into her stories.

Just like her books.

I have three present-day authors who greatly influence and inspire me, my literary trinity, if you will. Anne Tyler is my guide for realistic fiction. Joyce Carol Oates is the writing beast, a fierce and prolific force, unafraid of any subject. And Maeve Binchy is the heart.

Yesterday, I paid tribute to her the only way I knew how, by revisiting her novels, thumbing through many, fondly remembering the characters. The books are all on my mantel with a few flowers, our correspondence, and a candle.

Rest in peace, dear author, for your novels and stories live on.


For a great bio in her own words, click on the link below.

Photo of Maeve Binchy by Liam White, courtesy of USA Today,


Leah Griffith said…
Oh Karen, I'm so sorry. Losing a favorite writer is losing a friend who somehow gets you. I've never read her work but in honor of her passing and your friendship I intend to purchase Circle of Friends. Sending a cyber hug (((Karen)))
Thanks so much, Leah. Yesterday, I ended up buying hardcovers of the worn-out paperbacks I have of her old books so they can be on my shelves longer.
angel011 said…
I agree with Leah, losing a favorite writer is indeed like losing a friend. I hope you find some comfort in rereading her books.
Kelly Hashway said…
It's always so sad to lose a literary great.
R. Doug Wicker said…
I'm so sorry to hear that you've lost one of your favorite authors. It's almost like losing a close member of the family when that happens.
angel011 and R. Doug: You are both right--it definitely feels like losing a friend or family member.
BECKY said…
Karen, reading this just now gave me goosebumps. I'm so glad you wrote about Maeve. (Yes, I refer to her on a first name basis, but I never corresponded with her, as you did!)I don't remember how I found Maeve's books, but it was a very long time ago. It was probably in the library, while I just mindlessly searched for a book I'd like. I own a few of the hardcover books, and a paperback or two. Her books really were beautifully written, drawing me into the story, the town, the homes. They weren't romance novels, there were stories about life and people (mostly women) and emotions, etc. I just LOVE your mantel tribute to her. Thanks so much for this lovely post.
Becky, glad to hear from another Maeve Binchy fan.
I have read several of her books and now I will search out more. Her voice will be missed.
Anonymous said…
This post reminded me of the handwritten reply I received from an author whose book helped change my life. I have yet to send a reply to her!

After your post I came across this on Twitter; have you seen it?:

What wonderful tips from her for writers! After I listened to her Irish voice awhile I decided I must read at least one of her books. Thanks, Karen.
DMS said…
What a lovely post and tribute to a great author. I read Circle of Friends and quite a few other books by Maeve. You described her books perfectly- a warm hug. I think her personal reply to you shows a lot about her character. So glad you had the chance to meet her. So sorry to hear of her passing.

Linda, you're right. Her voice will definitely be missed.

Lynn, I have seen that. Was just watching yesterday, as a matter of fact! Thank you for passing it along.

Jess, I'm really grateful for that as well. Thanks for your comments.
John Wiswell said…
Gracious and captivating - if only someone would be that kind to my memory after I expire. It was nice to read a different sort of remembrance in the time when everyone is preoccupied over Vidal.

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