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by Maeve Binchy

Pub Date: March 5th, 2001
ISBN: 0-525-94593-8
Publisher: Dutton

Another entertaining tale of contemporary Ireland with a big gathering of representative types—the addicted, the lonely, the unhappy—whose lives connect as two chefs start a catering business and cope with crises in work and love.

The story begins on New Year’s Eve and follows the major players through the following year. Cathy Scarlet and Tom Feather have been good friends ever since they met at catering school. Tired of doing events out of their own small kitchens, they want a place with an office, as well as enough storage room for a joint company. Cathy is married to Neil Mitchell, an idealistic lawyer, whose mother Hannah cannot forgive Cathy, the daughter of the Mitchells’ former housekeeper, for marrying her son. Soon after her latest acrimonious encounter with her mother-in-law, Cathy and Tom find the ideal premises for Scarlet Feather. While they complete the necessary renovations and begin drumming up business, their lives are complicated by family problems. Cathy finds herself taking care of nine-year-old twins Simon and Maud, who have been abandoned by their parents, Neil’s uncle and aunt; planning a wedding for her sister; and dealing with Neil’s obsession with his work and her unexpected pregnancy. In the meantime, Tom breaks up with his girlfriend Marcella, who heads for London and the modeling career she’s dreamed of. Scarlet Feather is robbed and vandalized. Then, as Christmas nears, Cathy suffers a miscarriage, and Neil’s cool response leads her to question her marriage. As their debts mount, Scarlet Feather faces bankruptcy. But the twins, now living with Cathy’s parents, miraculously save the day, and the new year begins with the abundant promise of good things for those deserving few.

More a buffet with lots of variety and a few standouts than a thematically distinctive menu, but Binchy still serves up a narrative feast.