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If you haven't yet read Minding Frankie, don't read the following. The story is discussed in great depth here as a summary of our book club meeting.
Tonight we discussed Minding Frankie as a book club. We were mixed in our feelings about the novel, as one didn't really care for it, another couple of individuals liked but didn't love the book and one loved it. Reading is like that and it is difficult to find a genre, let alone a book that everyone loves in the end.
We discussed the characters and how Maeve Binchy carries some forward from one book to the next with the focus changing from one family to another with each novel. In some ways, we found that a bit distracting as we weren't familiar with the other characters, though I have to admit Ms. Binchy does a good job of tying things together. One character, in particular, who really didn't have a role in the Minding Frankie except for a few brief paragraphs about her funeral, was Father Tim's mother. I realize it is difficult to build a story around every one of the individuals but for some "supporting cast" it just isn't plausible. Apparently Father Tim is in another novel and I wondered if, perhaps, this storyline was developed there. Another member had read the novel in question but didn't think Father Tim played a major role in it either. He's more of a supporting character.
Noel's past and what led him to alcoholism is a mystery to us. Perhaps some depression came into play? But that is a matter of opinion as we are never told much about his past, except that he had been a bit of a recluse and didn't care much about anything. Until Frankie came along, that is. At that point, Noel discovered life.
What do the very young and the very mature have to offer to each other? There are several instances where the young turn to the older generation, such as in the care of Frankie and how to handle things like teething. There are also instances when the younger generation contribute to the elder generations. Muttie was a beloved older man, married and diagnosed with cancer. The whole community that offered support to Noel in raising Frankie, also came to offer support to Muttie. He would be taken out to one of his favourite locales, a bar, to have a gentleman's night out, though his escort was not a drinker but did it because he knew the social aspect of the gathering would keep Muttie's spirits high. Meals were brought in, and favours given, all in support of this dear man.
One of the other members of the book club said, " This novel shows the young needing the older generation more, I think. I really liked that everyone kind of rallied together to help raise Frankie and mostly that all of them really seem to care about each other."
There is a true sense of family in this community as they support one another during crisis and good times alike. This is truly admirable and is one of my favourite things about this story. It evidences that one does not have to be related by blood to be like family.
In discussion about relationships, we analyzed Lisa's relationship with Anton and each one of were in agreement that it was a bad relationship from the start. Some felt that Anton was a user and were dismayed that Lisa couldn't see this. Case in point: Lisa put endless hours into promotions and graphic design for Anton's restaurant but Anton never offered to pay her for her time. Lisa justified this by saying she always looked at it like she was doing it for the two of them. That she was helping to build their future together. Why did Lisa not recognize this relationship for what it was? One of the members said, " I think that there are lots of people who want to feel loved so much that they can ignore almost anything and that Lisa was one of them." P.S., how did Lisa continue to have means to live on when she quit her job to work with Anton?
Anton, on the other hand, seemed oblivious to Lisa's needs and unconcerned about the direction their relationship was headed. Anton says to Lisa, “I’m not the villain here, you know,” and she responds, “I know. That’s why I’m angry. I got it so wrong . . . ” (page 314) What does she mean? Lisa is finally seeing the light and we all cheer that she has. It's about time!! It was said, "Anton never tried to hide what he was, Lisa was just really good at not seeing it for the longest time.
None of us liked Moira. Sure we could understand the basis for her behaviour and concerns. She had a terrible upbringing which she thought could have been better had someone intervened on behalf of the children. She brings this prejudice forward, with a bias predetermined. We understand that, but we just couldn't like this character. "Obviously because of her upbringing, Moira doesn't want any child to suffer neglect and she's worried that will happen to Frankie because of Noel's disease. That being said, it still doesn't change the fact that I spent most of the book wanting to shake her," said one of the ladies in the group. To note, neither Emily nor Karen had ideal childhoods, but each had overcome the obstacles associated with their past and had moved forward to make better lives for themselves. Noel's ability to overcome the obstacles he had, as far as we know, put upon himself, is a ray of hope in this novel. Alcoholism is not an easy disease to overcome. It takes daily effort, but Noel proves that one can overcome and make a better life with the right support, desire and hard work.
All in all, most of us enjoyed Minding Frankie. When asked if any of us would read another Maeve Binchy novel, only one said she had no desire to. Next on my list of Maeve Binchy novels to read is Evening Class. A good friend recommended it and I trust that she won't be off the mark on this one either.