“She told herself that a letter was nothing but words on paper. But a librarian should know better than anyone how written words, moving through time and space, could change a person’s life.”
After the end of a lengthy marriage and many years living a sophisticated life in London, Hanna Casey finds herself moving in with her widowed mother in the small Irish town of Lissberg (fictional), with 16 year old daughter Jazz (Jasmine) in tow. Hanna left her long term husband Malcolm (and his money) after she found him in bed with another woman.
Lissberg is the town that time forgot, but Hanna is fortunate to find a job in the small Lissberg library, which is in close proximity to an old convent where two elderly nuns reside. She is assisted on a part time basis by Conor McCarthy, whose goal is to become a librarian. The Lissberg library is under the control of the County Library in Carrick and Tim Slattery, the County librarian.
Hanna finds the job dull, but two days a week she drives the mobile library to more remote locations, providing books and conversation to people who otherwise would not have access to a library. Although extremely reserved, Hanna enjoys this particular part of her job.
At the age of 12, Hanna had inherited a cottage from her reclusive Aunt Maggie. When Hanna returns to Ireland the cottage is ramshackle and unlivable. Hanna’s life with her mother is tense and Hanna decides to take a loan and renovate the deteriorating cottage. She finds herself working with the inscrutable Fury O’Shea, who insists on the renovations he deems appropriate and refuses to provide either estimates or plans. “Everyone agreed that you wouldn’t want to cross Fury…Apparently he didn’t do estimates, let alone quotes, nor did he stick to a schedule. And you’d never know where to find him…”
In the meantime, the county council has a development plan in mind that would create a new complex in Carrick, threatening the Lissberg library as well as the economic wellbeing of Lissberg’s already struggling residents. Despite her reserve, Hanna finds herself and her library at the center of a resistance movement, seemingly initiated by one of the elderly nuns in the convent. And somehow, along the way, Hanna finds romance. I will not give away the ending, which has a few twists and turns.
The novel is enjoyable and sweet. Along with issues of development and the importance of community, the book looks at family relationships, politics, power, deceit and loyalty. The book also has humor, best reflected in Oliver “the dog man”, who spends weeks going through every book in the library looking for a book with a particular dog on the cover. The novel gets off to a slow start but is a worthwhile read. You can reserve a copy at the Cuyahoga County Public Library by clicking here.