1940 to 2012
It was with a powerful feeling of sadness that I learned on Facebook that the great Irish writer Maeve Binchy passed away at age 72 on July 30, 2012. Everyone who was privileged to know her greatly admired goodness of heart as much as her tremendous talent. I think you can see why from reading her brief autobiography on her official webpage.
"The First Step of Christmas" is a wonderful deeply wise story about the meaning of family and Christmas. It is not treckle, it is a very real story about being a step parent at Christmas, about a sometimes monstrous teenage step-daughter and the feelings of her stepmother when the girl's biological mother dies and she must move in with them. The story takes place at Christmas time and the girl's stepmother is preparing the house for a wonderful family feast. She knows it is her duty to be a good stepmother to the girl but she is so nasty acting at times with a rude answer for everything that it is not easy.
The beauty in this story is in the conversations between the stepmother and the girl, in the reality of their feelings about each other. The older woman resents the girl for her possible bad effects on her marriage and for the disruption to the household her presence will cause. The girl can see all of this and she also resents the woman for her place in her father's affections and for her seeming to have authority over the girl that she does not accept. There is a wonderfully done first step toward building a bond in this story and it really is perfectly done. I see why everyone loves the work of Maeve Binchy.
If you want to read this story, you can download a sample of This Year It Will Be Different and other stories from Amazon.
The Manchester Guardian has a very informative celebration of her life and work.