Dear, dear Maeve Binchy, a writer I never met, never interviewed, but felt like I knew, has died, and I'm so sad. I bet you are, too.

 Binchy's 16 big-hearted novels--set, mostly, in Dublin or elsewhere in Ireland--reflected her generous view of the world, her understanding that it takes all kinds, and her firm belief that love almost always wins in the end. 

Her books had ensemble casts, and the characters came and went so naturally that you (caught up in her engrossing multiple storylines) might not have noticed how quietly liberal a world view she had: She never created characters to make a point or put forth an agenda, but merely to populate her books the way the world is populated, with young and old, immigrant and native, gay and straight, married and single, celebate and faithful and sneaking around having affairs. Her characters didn't just behave as real people do, they lived as real people do.

Binchy believed in the power of optimism and hard work, and her characters were forever building something out of nothing, starting their own small businesses--restaurants, or caterers, or bookstores, or junk shops--which invariably succeeded but only because of their pluck, their smarts, and their long, long hours.

I do not remember which of her books I read first or how many of them I read; I only know that for a long time I avoided them, thinking them girlish chicklit that was beneath the likes of snooty literary me.

But now I wish I had written them myself, were capable of writing something that told the truth, spread the word, and spun a great story to boot. Here's a link to her obituary in the Irish Times, which called her "the best loved writer of her generation."

Here, too, is a link to a YouTube interview with her, talking about her philosophy of life. (Almost everything is possible if you're cheerful and work hard.)

RIP, Maeve Binchy. Your readers will not forget you.