“A Week in Winter” is a delightful read about a woman who had an upsetting turn of events but was able to overcome them to achieve happiness for herself and others.
Chicky Starr left Stoneybridge, Ireland, to move to the United States when she was 20 to be with her boyfriend, Walter, whom she met when he vacationed in Ireland. The move outraged her parents because she and Walter weren’t married. In fact her father told her she had shamed the family and would never be welcome in their house again.
For a time, Chicky and Walter lived a life of odd jobs in a big apartment with other people. Chicky wrote home that they were successful and had even gotten married, though neither was true. Eventually, Walter became bored and told her their relationship was over. Chicky couldn’t move back home. A friend told her about a woman named Ms. Cassidy, who ran a boarding house. Chicky went to work for her and lived frugally. Ms. Cassidy served as a mentor and told Chicky about adult classes, and Chicky started attending cooking classes. Soon, she ran a small catering business. She saved her money and went home every summer for a week – she was welcome again because the family thought she was married. Walter never came with her but she told her family he was busy. She found that returning home and being in Ireland’s rugged landscape each year rejuvenated her emotionally.
When Chicky’s niece wanted to visit her in New York, Chicky knew she couldn’t explain Walter’s absence. Ms. Cassidy suggested that she say that Walter had died in a car accident. Chicky followed her advice and told her family that Walter had died, and Chicky did so. On one of her visits back to Ireland, Chicky meet Miss Queenie, the last of three sisters who owned a lovely old home that had seen better days.
Miss Queenie finds out that Chicky had a dream of opening a bed-and breakfast and convinces Chicky to buy her house for the idea. Though her family thinks the idea is crazy, Miss Queenie believes in Chicky.
Chicky moves back to Ireland and makes numerous repairs to the house, known as Stone House, and hires her niece and other staff. On opening weekend, Stone House is filled with guests. One is Winnie, who is accompanied by Lillian, the mother of her boyfriend, Teddy. Winnie really wanted Teddy there, but he was busy at a conference.
Winnie didn’t like Lillian because she knows Lillian will never approve of her. Another guest is a famous actor trying not to be recognized, but everyone knows who he is. He wants to figure out what to do with the rest of his life.
Another couple of guests, Henry and Nicola, are doctors who started out working in emergency rooms but took jobs as doctors on cruise ships because it was less stressful.
One of their patients recently died, and they’re taking a break from their jobs. Yet another guest, Anders, is supposed to run his family’s accounting business, but his heart isn’t in it. He needs a week to consider his options. One couple staying at the in aren’t at all happy to be there. They were the Walls, Ann Charlie, and their stay is second prize in a contest they had entered.
First prize was a week in Paris that they had really wanted. They come to have offered.
In fact, the week and the experiences prove beneficial to almost all of the guests – and grand entertainment for readers
The author, Maeve Binchy, is the author of a number of bestsellers and lived in Ireland until her death last year at age 72.
Maggie Braun is a special education teacher at Manhattan High School and a Manhattan resident.