Binchy, Maeve, (c. 1998). The Return Journey. Delacourte Press. 214 pages , $18.65.
In fourteen short stories, relationships unfold around what can or cannot be during different journeys. The characters are realistically flawed yet always redeemable
This compilation of short stories moves between Ireland, Europe and the United States, introducing characters with different backgrounds, situations and motivations. All the stories revolve around some aspect of travel where relationships and discoveries can either be built up or destroyed. There is the young couple, secure in their knowledge that they are in a perfect relationship until they shop for suitcases for an upcoming journey, discovering how different they really are. One story tells of the dedication of a property manager whose life gets happier as others’ lives spiral into slumps.
Maeve Binchy, known for her heartwarming stories, manages to fold fourteen separate scenarios into one volume. The characters’ motivations develop quickly moving the each story quickly to its end. And not all the endings are completely predictable, just as life is never completely predictable.
This is a quick and light read for those that enjoy short stories and leisurely paced writing. Although some of the scenarios are dated and admittedly, slightly annoying, Binchy has produced an enjoyable series of stories where women and men must question their motivations and ultimately live with the consequences.
Mainstream Fiction/Short stories
Snow Angels by Fern Michaels. Where I’m Calling From by Raymond Carver.
Book Discussion Questions:
Which was your favorite story and why?
Besides travel, did you notice any other common themes throughout the stories?
Why do you think the action of taking a journey can be symptomatic of the health of a relationship?
Reasons for selection:
I found this book by just browsing through the stacks at one of the library branches where I was killing time in between meetings. I hadn’t read much of Maeve Binchy and I normally do not seek out short stories so I thought I’d give the compilation a try. I found myself enjoying the vignettes of life portrayed in each scenario and the endings that always left the reader wondering about the character’s next steps.