The questions, discussion topics, and reading list that follow are intended to enhance your reading group’s discussion of Minding Frankie, Maeve Binchy’s warm and engaging new novel.
“Reading a Maeve Binchy novel is like settling in for a cozy visit with an old friend. In vintage Binchy style, a cast of colorfully eccentric characters living in a snug Dublin neighborhood seamlessly weave in and out of each other’s lives, united by family, faith, friendship and community . . . Readers will need a box of tissues handy as the good-hearted residents of St. Jarlath’s Crescent prove that it does indeed take a village to raise a child.” —Booklist
“Bestseller Binchy is a national treasure in her homeland of Ireland, and her latest novel is a perfect illustration of why. . . . Binchy straddles improbable and possible in her touching saga, and if your mind can’t quite wrap itself around St. Jarlath’s Crescent, your heart will have no trouble recognizing the landscape.” —Publishers Weekly
“The stories of Noel, his cousin Emily, and his friend Lisa, along with the social worker who wants to pull them apart and the little girl who pulls them together, make this novel fresh and appealing. An enjoyable novel about life, love and second chances.” —Library Journal
Maeve Binchy is back with a tale of joy, heartbreak and hope, about a motherless girl collectively raised by a close-knit Dublin community.
When Noel learns that his terminally ill former flame is pregnant with his child, he agrees to take guardianship of the baby girl once she’s born. But as a single father battling demons of his own, Noel can’t do it alone.
Fortunately, he has a competent, caring network of friends, family and neighbors: Lisa, his unlucky-in-love classmate, who moves in with him to help him care for little Frankie around the clock; his American cousin, Emily, always there with a pep talk; the newly retired Dr. Hat, with more time on his hands than he knows what to do with; Dr. Declan and Fiona and their baby son, Frankie’s first friend; and many eager babysitters, including old friends Signora and Aidan and Frankie’s doting grandparents, Josie and Charles.
But not everyone is pleased with the unconventional arrangement, especially a nosy social worker, Moira, who is convinced that Frankie would be better off in a foster home. Now it’s up to Noel to persuade her that everyone in town has something special to offer when it comes to minding Frankie.
Questions and Topics for Discussion
1. Have you read any of Maeve Binchy’s other novels? How does this one compare?
2. If you’ve read other Binchy books, which characters did you recognize? Are there any you’d like to see in a future novel?
3. There are many parents in the book. Who would you say does the best job, and why?
4. There are a number of recent retirees, voluntary and otherwise, who become an important part of Frankie’s life. What kind of roles do her grandparents, Josie and Charles, take on? What about Dr. Hat and Muttie? More generally, what do the very young and the very mature have to offer each other? Which generation do you think needs the other more?
5. “Emily told herself that she must not try to change the world. . . . But there were some irresistible forces that could never be fought with logic and practicality. Emily Lynch knew this for certain” (page 22). What “irresistible forces” does she mean? How does she fight them?
6. It’s clear what Noel gets from his relationship with Emily, but what does she get? How does the effect of alcoholism bond them?
7. Discuss Lisa’s relationship with Anton. Why is she so oblivious to his less attractive qualities? What is her turning point?
8. Why is Moira so obsessed with Frankie’s fate? Is it just fear, or is there something more going on?
9. How does Moira define “family”? How does Emily?
10. Lisa says to Moira, “I have a lot of worries and considerations in my life, but minding Frankie sort of grounds me. It gives it all some purpose, if you know what I mean” (page 239). Among Frankie’s caretakers, who else might say this?
11. Discuss the ethics of Moira’s dealings with Eddie Kennedy. Should she have told him about her father?
12. 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?
13. What did you think of Di Kelly’s reason for staying with her husband? What would you have done?
14. What is your opinion of Noel’s decision to get a DNA test? How would you have handled the results he received?
15. Many of the characters go through major upheavals in their lives. Who responds best, and why? Whose attitude changes the most?
16. What did you think of Stella’s letter to Frankie? What did we learn from it?
About this Author
Maeve Binchy is the author of numerous best-selling books, including her most recent novel, Heart and Soul, in addition to Whitethorn Woods, Nights of Rain and Stars, Quentins, Scarlet Feather, Circle of Friends and Tara Road, which was an Oprah’s Book Club selection. She has written for Gourmet; O, The Oprah Magazine; Modern Maturity; and Good Housekeeping, among other publications. She and her husband, Gordon Snell, live in Dalkey, Ireland.
Heart and Soul
by Maeve Binchy; The Shellseekers
by Rosamund Pilcher; The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
by Alan Bradley; An Irish Country Girl
by Patrick Taylor; What Are You Like?
by Anne Enright; The Empty Family
by Colm Tóibín; Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand
by Helen Simonson; Cold Sassy Tree
by Olive Ann Burns