I have no idea where I came across this, I’m sure it was on a blog at some point, but I requested it from my local library for my Kindle (oh hey, Overdrive), and promptly forgot I requested it. So when I got the email notification that it was ready I at first panicked (I received two others at the same time) and then got excited because, well, see the first sentence of this response.
This is the story of Hannah and her fall from grace/redemption in her own eyes. She grew up in a small fictional village in Ireland went to big city London got married had a family and then returned home in self-imposed exile where she stewed and kept to herself. To use a word Hayes-McCoy taught me, she becomes a bête noir, “an anathema; someone or something which is particularly disliked, or avoided; an object of aversion, the bane of one’s existence” (Wiktionary) This story is the briefest of moments in her life in which the solitude and before mentioned crotchety-ness are slowly stripped away and she becomes a vital and active part of her community.
What I loved most about the book was the redemption arc, the ill will at becoming part of a community and the slow and steady transition to embracing it. Hannah goes from self-imposed exile, to being part of a huge save the library/save the village community and even gets a bit of a blossoming romance toward the end of the novel. Where I thought the book struggled was some of the character development. Although Hannah is crisp in my mind, many of the other characters have faded with time and that’s kind of okay because this has turned into the Finfarran series coming to the US as Summer at the Garden Café (Fall 2018) and The Mistletoe Matchmaker (Fall 2019). Hopefully, the characters I remember enjoying (the nun, the library helper, the crazy builder) will be back and I’ll be able to reminisce then.
I also felt Hayes-McCoy did a wonderful job creating a believable librarian who notices things about books and people that reminds me of many that I know/have known! From how she came to the idea of being a librarian,
“She already knew that she was useless with a paintbrush or pencil, but there were people who looked after all this stuff, and wrote the signs under the pictures and statues, and created lists and catalogues. Maybe you could get a job doing something like that. Later on, when she discovered that big art galleries had libraries, everything fell into place. She would train to be a librarian and find herself a job in a gallery. And the rest of her life would be spent among paintings that made your eyes fizz and your brain dance, and beautiful books that told you about them.” (Loc. 615)
to the observations of the weird things people leave in library books,
“It was a reprehensible habit, of course, but people did leave the most interesting things in library books. Strands of wool, holy pictures, blades of grass, even bank notes. And ephemera like that flier for the art exhibition that had changed the course of her own life.” (Loc. 2121)
which is something one of the local bookstores in Greater Boston, Brookline Booksmith (store link), does in their weekly newsletter’s “Find of the Week” section. These, and the many things below referencing Hannah’s experience as a librarian just made me happy.
Recommendation: If you love books and libraries or change of heart stories and local politics stories, or if you love Ireland and cozy sofa reads, this is a great book for you. If you don’t like those things, but still enjoy a relaxing relatively quick read this is also a book for you. If you don’t like any of those things we probably have a problem as I feel like most of what I read falls into one of these 😀
Opening Line: “The turquoise sky reflected the color of the ocean.”
Closing Line: “And the taste of windblown salt on her lips was mixed with the honey scent of flowers.” (Whited out to avoid spoilers, highlight to read.)
Additional Quotes from The Library at the Edge of the World
“But a librarian should know better than anyone how written words, moving through time and space could change a person’s life. (Loc. 324)
“…she was a confirmed bookworm, and, though she had money enough to buy any book that she wanted, the library around the corner had become her enduring light.” (Loc. 1245)
“Yet, despite his impressive title of County Librarian, he worked in what was no more than a cubbyhole in a shabby, graceless building. Given his flamboyant sense of style, this was hardly the perfect fit but, sensitive to his respect for her own privacy, Hanna never probed his feelings.” (Loc. 1522)
“Everything in life has its own time to happen. A time to plant, a time to grow, and a time to harvest. And if you take things steady you’ll bring your harvest home.” (Loc. 3337)
“In fact, none of the furniture or possessions that surrounded her were symbols of hard-won independence. They were the story of her reintegration into a community that, for years, she had failed to value and that now might be her salvation.” (Loc. 4758)
“In a sense, Lissbeg Library is a metaphor for Ireland’s cultural consciousness, as well as a setting for individual empowerment through communal aspiration. Though I’m not sure that I could have conceived it that way without the experience of living in a rural community that places such a high value on the preservation of its distinctively native Irish culture through the passing on of stories, place names, and poems.”(Loc. 4923, About the Book)