Rachel's Reviews > Tara Road

Tara Road by Maeve Binchy
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Nov 15, 2010

it was ok
Read from November 07 to 14, 2010

This...was an absolute waste of my time. When I think of the time I could've spent studying, there's a sense of emptiness in me that Maeve Binchy has stolen a day or two of my life that I will never get back. No, no...it's more than that...it's like a sense of betrayal even. Maeve was supposed to be funny. She was supposed to be funny and witty, like she was when she wrote Aches and Pains. This is one of the reasons one should never go reading a book expecting anything. In retrospect, I thought that Tara Road would be about, I don’t know…strangers who keep meeting each other on the road and have a chat about their everyday life and maybe the story could expand to some sort of adventure/mystery thing, I don’t know. Here’s what Tara Road is actually about:

Woman from poor family background meets man from poor family background. Man has a dream to buy the house he’s currently boarding and transform it. The woman is Ria and the man, Dan, known for most of the book as Danny Lynch, and right from the start Maeve wants you to be a little wary of him. Why else would she give him the name “Lynch”? It wouldn’t make sense. She made this character out to be an all-charming, handsome, sociable, loving, wily, and extremely likable man with ambition, and off she goes and names him “Lynch”.

Back to the story: By some form of twisted luck and through Dan’s craftiness, they get the house, and go on to fill it with wonderful treasures blahblah. Ria is pregnant, Danny is irresistibly handsome , and because he’s helping his adulterous new boss and boss’ mistress, he’s not there for the birth of his first child. Also, at the time, some alcoholic skanky girl was trying to seduce him. Since he didn’t fall for anything, we assume he’s ever loyal. Then it goes on to say Danny has affairs. Danny ends affairs. Ria is oblivious. Ria has a friend Gertie who married an abusive alcoholic. Ria’s mother is the town gossip, and her sister is a sad scrooge. Boohoo. Ria has another friend Rosemary who nobody appears to like even though, and maybe even because, she’s successful and hot. Gertie cleans her friend's houses for her husband’s drinking money. Ria has another baby, baby grows up. Ria’s daughter accidentally sees Rosemary having sex, traumatized for life. Rosemary has funky feelings for a man named Colm (who owns a restaurant, is oddly protective of his sister, and grows his vege behind Ria’s house on Tara Road). Colm is always helpful, and that's about the only use for him in the story.

Ria wants a third baby. She approaches Danny, and finds out he’s got another girl pregnant. Cries, cries, begs him to come back. Children are heartbroken. Ria spies on preggo and her mom, and finds out the dear mom is her age. Awkward.

There’s some BS about a fortuneteller, but that isn’t in any way relevant to the story. In fact, a good chunk of the book is just Maeve Binchy’s way of telling trees and environmental activists that they can sod off because barring any divine intervention she’s going to ramble on and on unnecessarily about characters that I personally can’t relate to and a story that should have taken a whole lot less than 200 pages to flesh out. One consolation, Hallelujah, is that she filled the pages with whole paragraphs of words instead of the name of each passing month.

And lo and behold, was I shocked when I came to chapter 4. I hadn’t realized there’d been any chapters in this never-ending jumble of words and more words, let alone reached chapter 4. So, just for this review, I flipped back and hah…there’s chapter 1, and there’s chapter 4, with nothing between or after. I’m surprised she put a pause there at all. I suppose it’s to indicate a passage of time. Either that, or she wanted to bring it to my attention I’d hit page 200, and there’d be 288 pages of fun left to go. FM.

So on and on I did read, and suddenly, this American woman Marilyn is literally thrown in out of nowhere, looking to do a house exchange. And then I thought: Shit. It would’ve been so much more interesting as a book had I been introduced to Marilyn at roughly the same point as Ria. It wouldn’t have been hard to do really… to stuff her into that 200 pages and take a bit out of Ria’s story. Maeve Binchy enjoys weaving out of other characters’ lives around Ireland like a drunk driver. I expected to be ambushed with another 200-page introduction to the life of Marilyn, but fortunately, Maeve cannot stay away from Ria, sweet, weak, wonderful chef, ever loving mother, doting wife, innocent, tolerant, moral Ria. Flawless in all ways but her blindness to any living souls’ faults.

Eventually, the house exchange begins, and the two women never meet. Ria is all about being around people, whereas Marilyn is a recluse. Ria finds herself a new bunch of friends, and Marilyn is set up by Ria to be ambushed by her own friends and family. Eventually as things go, they fit in, and grow in ways they never had to and heal. One can see a mile away that Marilyn is running from something, and it’s obvious to everyone, if not Ria, that Marilyn lost her son Dale.

To save the trouble of having to endure 200 pages of this, the gist is:
1) Ria attracts the attention of Marilyn’s brother-in-law. Learns how to email. Learns about the true story behind Dale’s death that is totally redundant.
2) Ria’s children—Annie and Brian—help Marilyn get over the loss of her son.
3) Ria’s children stay with her in USA for the second month of her stay. Two boys rival for Annie’s attention, one of whom is Gertie’s (alcoholic’s wife) nephew.
4) Marilyn helps Cobb’s sister (who is revealed to be a heroin addict, eventually clearing all absurd accusations that they committed incest) to break the addiction
5) Marilyn walks in on Rosemary cheating with Danny Lynch. She uses this to blackmail Rosemary into helping Ria with her new career in the food-export business.
6) Danny and his adulterous boss, Barney McCarthy, suffer major losses in business and nearly go bankrupt. They have to sell Tara Road
7) Danny Lynch visits Ria in the US of A to tell her this and ends up sleeping with her.
8) Danny’s mistress loses the baby. Danny does not go back to Ria.
9) Barney McCarthy’s wife saves them all from the brink of bankruptcy, on several conditions, one of which includes leaving his mistress.
10) Gertie’s abusive alcoholic of a husband dies. Everyone shows up at his funeral. Gertie rewrites history to say he was the best husband in the whole world.
11) Fortuneteller disappears. All her predictions were accurate. Whoopie for her.

All in all, this is a damn gossipy book. I wasn’t bored reading it, and that’s about as high a praise that can be heaped on this colossal waste of time. I found no satisfaction at all from reading it. I wouldn’t even call it a beach-read, because it’s just too full of negativity. But perhaps I don’t enjoy it because it wasn’t intended for my age group, but that’s hardly an excuse is it? There are books people would enjoy at age 60 just as much as they would if they were 16. Oh well, if I feel like wasting another day of my life I’ll pick it up again at age 40 maybe, and perhaps then, I would appreciate the so-called “light-hearted” cynicism/realism Cow Poo. I sincerely hope not.
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