Little Chapel on the River: A Pub, a Town and the Search for What Matters Most
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Little Chapel on the River: A Pub, a Town and the Search for What Matters Most

3.92 of 5 stars 3.92  ·  rating details  ·  610 ratings  ·  118 reviews
Forced from her downtown Manhattan apartment by the terrorist attack of September 11, journalist Wendy Bounds was delivered to Guinan's doorstep -- a legendary Irish drinking hole and country store nestled along the banks of the Hudson River in the small town of Garrison, New York -- by a friend.

Captivated by the bar's charismatic but ailing owner and his charming, motley...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published July 25th 2006 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published 2005)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 952)
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Gabe
Great story about a small town on the Hudson River and discovering what's most important in life - people, their stories, and your relationships with them.
Julie
I liked this book. A lot. Really it is a window into a magical world known as Guinan's Pub, formally in Garrison, NY, and the owner, Jim Guinan. This book delves into the history and lives of the Guinan clan and the family business, namely a pub, and store, spanning several decades. Bounds describes the daily ongoings in this community pub along with the colorful cast of characters who frequent it. A charming and poignant tale. Two of my favorite parts are as follows:
1. Bounds begins helping in...more
Jessica Eileen
This is a book set in my town that has opened up worlds for me. Guinans was a great focal point of Garrison and being able to read all of their stories makes me so happy and helps me connect with something so iconic about the landing. Truly a well written and moving book which will forever be one of my favorites.
Liz
I liked reading about the story of Guinan's pub/store and the Guinan family. I was less interested in the story of the author and I didn't particularly care for her writing style. Overall, it is an interesting history of an Irish immigrant family in NY and the public house that they run.
Amanda
I'm almost done with this book & am just loving it. It is easy to read entertaining & heart warming. I recommend it to everyone.
John
Little Chapel on the River is a community study of even tempo and simple observation. I appreciated the author's reserve in description of both place and people.

Over time she lets their actions and words paint the picture of a group of people whose intersection is not in their own backgrounds or personalites, but in their desire, no, their longing for a place to step out of life for a bit to contemplate and discuss what passes by on river and road.

I had some difficulty in rating the book, though...more
Beth
This book is about a journalist who works for the Wall Street Journal. She and her partner lived practically across the street from the World Trade Center on 9/11. In the days and weeks following the attack, she and her roommate stayed with various friends while their apartment was unhabitable. They ended up near the little town of Garrison, NY on the Hudson River, about 50 miles from NYC. Before catching a train to the city one day, they stopped in a small local tavern there and the author, Wen...more
Elizabeth Robey
I read this little book immediately after Jonathan Franzen's 600 page "Freedom" and it took me a little while to adjust to the simplicity of its narrative and the writing. But after several chapters, I settled into with it and ultimately enjoyed this book that explores values, families, loyalty, friendship, and what is important in life.

The story takes place shortly after 9/11, where the author, a Wall Street Journal reporter, and her partner leave Manhattan to take refuge in a little town on t...more
Kate
"Forced from her downtown Manhattan apartment by the terrorist attack of September 11, journalist Wendy Bounds was delivered to Guinan's doorstep -- a legendary Irish drinking hole and country store nestled along the banks of the Hudson River in the small town of Garrison, New York -- by a friend.

"Captivated by the bar's charismatic but ailing owner and his charming, motley clientele, Bounds uprooted herself permanently and moved to tiny Garrison, the picturesque river town they all call home.....more
Christie
A heartwarming account revolving around the town of Garrison, New York and a pub that instantly becomes such an important part of the lives of those who walk in and hear the stories told by the owner, Jim Guinan. The pub is affectionately referred to as "The little chapel on the river" and shortly after the events of 9/11, the author and her girlfriend stop by this pub and realize that this gathering place and the small town of Garrison provide the calm and sense of normalcy that was taken from...more
Michelle
"The hamlet slipping into winter is a gentle but palpable occurance. As final fair warning, the leaves begin to glow until it looks as if someone has lit a warm lamp across the entire valley...Wood is stockpiled, chimneys swept, snowplow contracts signed.
Meantime, the summer renters close up shop...Those who stay can watch as the landscape strips down, unloading her buxom summer weight until she is naked, angular, severely beautiful.
This is home on the eve of our arrival."

Reading the book jacke...more
Elise
An appropriate follow-up to "The Great Good Place," and a fun book to read aloud with Nick. Reading "The Great Good Place" made me yearn for a good community establishment, where everybody knows and takes care of each other, where everybody knows he or she is welcome after either a good or bad day. Guinan's Pub in Garrison, New York, aka the little chapel on the river, is that great good place. I loved meeting the cast of chapel characters (especially when Nick did the Irish accent) and getting...more
Elizabeth
This book really deserves 3 1/2 stars...

This true story begins on the morning of September 11, 2001, in an apartment next door to the World Trade Center. The author, Wendy Bounds, is preparing to go to work at the Wall Street Journal when the towers are hit and life turns upside down. After a couple months as a nomad, she and her roommate end up living with friends an hour outside the city in the small hamlet of Garrison, across the Hudson river from West Point. Wendy becomes more intrigued and...more
Selena
Nov 05, 2008 Selena rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Catie, Irish people, small town folk
A heart-warming story about a little pub and country store just north of NYC that defeated all odds. And the people who ran it and became part of it also defeated most odds. Garrison, NY seems like a place I'd love to live in and perhaps work out of, from the author's fabulous description of it. The only negative thing I can say about this book is that the author seemed to want to become these people a little too much. She basically invited herself into the lives of the Guinans and gave up her p...more
Caroline
For everyone who ever had a bar to call home, or wanted one. This is a book about the regulars, the locals. The author is a 9/11 refugee from NYC, finding a new home and a new perspective on life in a small town - specifically, in a family establishment filled with interesting characters. I wouldn't call it a 9/11 survivor memoir, but I do think the experience clearly flavors Ms. Bounds' early interactions with the pub life. She eventually becomes a convert to life in "the Chapel" and respectful...more
Becki Couch tompkins
A great little book about a little Irish Pub. This is where my husband and father-in-law spent their time. It was a great insight into the wonderful people who help "raise" my husband.
jessica
Jul 04, 2008 jessica rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: short story readers, memoir lovers
Recommended to jessica by: book club
I just read this with my book club last month and quite liked it. The style was engaging and read quickly, and the characters were handled very lovingly.
I hadn't read or viewed anything about September 11th since, and her treatment of the events were totally gentle and manageable (to me, I am a wuss I'll admit.)
My only criticism of the book was it's construction. As a series of vignettes, to me it detracted from the idea of this being a life-changing experience for the author. This is her first...more
Cindy
Really enjoyed this book about a woman after 9-11 who by chance stumbled into a little bar on the Hudson river across from West Point Academy called Guinan's. It was a general store/bar ran by an ailing Jim Guinan with help from his children. The author wound up moving to the little town, Garrison NY. She was so captivated by the owner, his family and the people. She shared stories from the clientele, reverting back to short smidgens about her own childhood with her grandfather & family. It...more
Monica
This is a heartwarming story about a small town bar and it's patrons. It includes a lot of quirky characters that are interesting to read about but at times, is a bit hard to keep track of who is who. Of course, my favorite was Jim, the owner of the bar. He reminds me of similarly proud men in my past. This book was entertaining. I enjoyed the 9/11 storyline and the written reactions to it. I think this book may be better read by individuals who don't come from a small town. Many of these storie...more
Caroline
Feb 02, 2008 Caroline rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Caroline by: Lynnette
Shelves: non-fiction
It's always fun to read about places you've visited, and while I've never had the good fortune to step inside Guinan's, part grocery, part pub, I've been to the Garrison train station, just north of New York City, which is steps away from Guinan's.

Wendy Bounds is forced to leave Manhattan after the 911 terrorist attacks leave her apartment uninhabitable. She had her partner land, at first temporarily and then permanently, in Garrison and discover Guinan's - the "Little Chapel on the River". This...more
stephanie
Dec 07, 2008 stephanie rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: EVERYONE.
Recommended to stephanie by: the internet.
this is the best post-9/11-new york book i've read.

i can't even wrap my head around it, the quietness, the sanctity, the small, brilliant writing. the carefulness of the characters, the beautiful setting, the honesty of everything.

i'll be back later for a more thorough review, but seriously, pick this book up.

guinan's doesn't exist anymore, and that's really sad, but this book will remember it. for me, i found dive bar, and gwendolyn found guinan's. these things are what we remember and hold...more
Rich
Gwendolyn Bounds, a Wall Street Journal writer and editor, is driven out of her New York City apartment by 9/11. She ends up in place called Garrison Landing, 50 miles from NYC. Time has forgotten this little village. The local bar serves as the anchor (the chapel) of humanity for many, the locals make sure to keep it that way.
For all of us who lead lives that are much to busy, lives that often forget what humanity should be about, read this book. We all need to find a place where perspective c...more
Nick Klagge
Elise and I read this book aloud together. We picked it up because my sister went totally crazy over it a couple of years ago, and we have been into reading things about community. It was very enjoyable and, as I alluded to in my review of "The Great Good Place", I think that perhaps narrative is a better medium through which to argue in favor of places like Guinan's than expository writing.

Two regrets:

-Guinan's closed in 2008, so we cannot go visit it.
-Elise would not do the Irish accent for Ji...more
Mike
Nonfiction. A writer and her partner who lived and worked near the Trade Center were displaced from home and work on 9/11. The writer sought refuge in Garrison, NY (right across from West Point) while office and home were repaired or relocated. She stumbles on an old-time country store/Irish Pub at the river landing of this wonderful small town and becomes part of this "Community," held together by "human duct tape." Here descriptions of the "characters" that run and frequent the place are utter...more
Clare
The people who frequent Guinan's pub are fascinating and I enjoyed learing their stories. I wish more "old school" places like Guinan's existed. The Guinan family is a testament to work ethic, community values and familial pride.
The author is a bit flighty (example: didn't know that there's tension between Irish & English). Her reflections are not profound, although she believes them to be. Her personal musings detracted from the story sometimes - she should remove herself and show us more a...more
Kevin Cashman
I cried more than once while reading this book. The writer recounts details of the day that I had buried. September 11th 2001 is the impetus for her leaving the city, but doesn't dominate the story. As she leaves in the wake of tragedy she finds a warm fabric of characters and place. I found myself breaking down over moments of humanity woven into this tale. It reads at times like a novel and the characters are like some people I grew up with. In the search for what matters most, I think it's an...more
Jen
a nice little story about the guinan's - an upstate NY family keeping their small irish pub afloat over three generations. the guinans and the rural hudson valley community become like family to the author, a post-9/11 NYC transplant. the author's long struggle to adjust to life upstate is told with honesty and the 'characters' are lovingly rendered -- even the not-so-lovable ones. the book manages to make the every day, mundane, small town life compelling - it is touching but not overly sentime...more
Anastasios Kozaitis
Mar 31, 2007 Anastasios Kozaitis rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: if interested in irish pubs, hudson river valley, and dialogue
Shelves: read-past
I enjoyed reading this book, and this is one of those throwaway reads that I tend not to read. I kept asking myself, why do I like this book so much aside from the fact that I have a fantasy of moving to Garrison, NY one day? The reason was two-fold: it reminded me of the good times I spent at the Brendan Behan Pub and, most importantly, I loved the dialogue. There's always good banter in a pub filled with a bunch of smart asses, and Guinan's has/had a bunch of them as did the Behan.
Amy
Jul 30, 2008 Amy rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: irish people, new yorkers
Recommended to Amy by: Don
This is a lovingly told memoir of a woman who found a new home in an unlikely place. She paints a picture of the bar and characters in it so that you have the feeling you've been there before, or been to something just like it. My only criticism is that she made the people a little too "good." The people were quirky and sometimes did destructive things, but they were all a little too good-hearted to be true. All in all, I enjoyed hearing about them and the this special place.
Katherine
I thoroughly enjoyed this book! The author's recounting of September 11, as well as her following experiences, were vivid and touching. At the end I realized that nothing had really happened and no one had really changed over the course of the story, which is usually unacceptable to me in books. I didn't mind this time, though. In the same way the author embraces the present moment, I am happy for the time spent reading Little Chapel.
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