There are certain kinds of books that just seem to work well. Books about libraries, or about bookstores, or about book lovers, for instance, tend to be fun to read. Books about people finding their best selves or recovering from loss and grief by going to a different (perhaps exotic) location and throwing themselves into the lives of the people there, for another example, tend to be comforting.  And (this may be personal to me, of course) books set in rural Ireland just make my heart happy.

Which is why I’m happy to recommend a new, charming book, The Library at the Edge of the World, by Felicity Hayes-McCoy, which combines all these categories into one. Woman trying to rebuild her life after having the earth pulled out from under her? Check. Working in a library/fighting to save a local library? Check.  Set in the west of Ireland?  Check.  

Hanna Casey, our protagonist, moved away from rural Lissbeg, in western Ireland, when she was a teenager, looking for the sophisticated life, bright lights, big city, and she found it, with a well to do barrister for a husband.  But now things have fallen apart: she found her hotshot husband in bed with another woman and she’s had to move back, humiliatingly, not only to Lissbeg, but to the back bedroom of her mother’s retirement bungalow.  She’s got a job as the town librarian, driving a mobile library van from one isolated town to another, but even that has its problems, since she feels conspicuous in her failure to make it on her own after so flagrantly shaking the dust of the place off her feet when she was younger. Her mother is hard to live with, her daughter is traveling the world, and Hanna tries to gain some independence by restoring a cottage left to her by her great aunt.

Then she discovers that the powers that be are threatening to close the library altogether, and Hanna finds a cause to fight for, and discovers how important her neighbors and family are to her and to her future.

So if the news of the world is getting you down and you’re in need of a feel-good book, check out The Library at the Edge of the World, and take a trip to the west coast of Ireland.


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