A Few of the Girls

By Maeve Binchy. (Alfred A. Knopf, 319 pages, $26.95.)


Irish writer Maeve Binchy’s gift was to create, sometimes in just a few brisk sentences, ordinary-people characters who quickly endear themselves to the reader. Often they’re about to stumble upon an experience that will change their outlook on life in some way. A short story by Binchy, who died in 2012 at 72, is immediately recognizable for its blessed brevity, swift pace, poignant wit and unfailingly wise and gentle psychology.

This posthumously published collection gathers 36 stories from various nooks in Binchy’s writing life, including some simply written for friends. Honestly, every one is marvelous. A quick sampling: In “Picnic at St. Paul’s,” a lonely Englishwoman and confident American man spend a day together that painfully reveals their cultural differences. In “The Bargain,” a Dublin woman struggles to decide if her love for a good man can survive life in his tiny rural village. In “Premonitions,” a woman finds that indulging her phobias and paranoia brings to fruition the very things she most fears.

“A Few of the Girls” is a string of gems, and, despite its title, it is not just fiction for women, any more than it is just a book for Irish and English readers.

PAMELA MILLER, Night metro editor


Where My Heart Used to Beat

By Sebastian Faulks. (Henry Holt, 333 pages, $27.)


This new novel from the author of “Birdsong” is a powerful story of a man’s late-in-life discoveries about himself and his father. It’s told in the first person by the main character, psychiatrist, writer and World War II veteran Robert Hendricks.

The story unfolds like an accidental memoir, beginning in the 1980s with a letter from a stranger who also is a psychiatrist, writer and an admirer of Hendricks’ treatment ideas. Hendricks travels to a remote island to meet the older man, who knew his father in World War I. The trip turns into a journey of profound revelation about Hendricks’ father and what happened to both men in two world wars.

David Shaffer, Reporter