Noel is an alcoholic, working in a dead end job, who suddenly finds he is about to become a father and care giver to a baby girl whose mother is terminally ill and will die during the delivery. Noel lives with his parents, Charles and Josie Lynch at their home in Jarlath's Crescent, Dublin. He used to spend his evenings having dinner with his parents and saying the rosary but as his life became more depressing, he stopped at the pub on his way home from his boring office job and had too many beers. When he arrived home, he would take his dinner up to his room and start drinking the alcohol he had stashed in his painting box. Strangely enough, his parents didn't notice that he was drunk every evening.
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Out of the blue, Emily arrives. Emily is Charles and Josie niece and Charles' brother's daughter. Charles alcoholic brother went off to the States many years ago. Emily decides she needs visit the land of her father and comes to stay with the Lynches. Emily is a breath of fresh air and has everyone organised in minutes. She immediately realizes that Noel is an alcoholic, having had many years of experience with her father and persuades him to go to AA. Charles has just discovered that he is being made redundant, but Emily organizes a dog walking business for him.
Charles and Josie were always disappointed that Noel didn't go into the seminary as they had been saving for that every since he was born. When it was obvious that he didn't want to be a priest, they decided they wanted to use the money they had saved to build a statue for St. Jarlath - the name of their road. Emily started a thrift shop for Josie to run, so that the proceeds would go to the St, Jarlath statue fund.
Noel receives a message via Father Flynn (who appears in many of Maeve Binchy's books) to go and visit a girl called Stella at the St. Brigid's Hospital. Stella is terminally ill and very pregnant with a baby girl whom she has already named Frankie. Noel vaguely remembers Stella but is absolutely shocked when she says that the baby is his and he wants him to look after it when she dies. Noel walks away but then talks to Emily. Emily takes control. She has already persuaded Noel to join AA and now he enrolls him in a business course so that he can further his career and have a better job. This is where Noel meets Lisa, who is also doing a marketing course. Lisa is madly in love with a restaurateur called Anton, but unfortunately, he is just using her for her graphic design skills and has no intention of making the relationship permanent.
Emily then tells Noel he must confide in his parents and move out of their house and rent a flat for himself and Frankie. Lisa helps Noel get the flat ready for Frankie's arrival. Noel and Emily have to convince the social worker, Moira, that he is able to take care of a child. There are many meetings around Stella's bed where she is absolutely insistent that Noel, as Frankie's father, must look after her child.
Frankie is born and Emily has already put a whole timetable in place, involving lots of the community, so that Frankie is taken care of at all times. There are lots of familiar faces from other Binchy books who help with the care giving, such as Lizzie and Muttie (Scarlet Feather), Fiona and Declan (Heart and Soul) and Aidan and Signora (Evening Class).
One evening, Lisa goes home and finds her father in bed with a prostitute, she goes to Noel's and ask if she can stay there for the night. The following day, after collecting her things from her home, Emily decides that she must stay at Noel's for a while. She can help with Frankie and therefore make Noel's life a little easier. Meanwhile, Moira, the social worker, is trying her best to catch Noel out, as she feels he is not a fit father. She had an awful childhood and feels that all children deserve the best possible chance and living with an alcoholic father is not a good start in life. After a few cross words with Moira, Noel goes on a drinking spree. Everyone tries to cover it up but eventually Father Flynn lets it slip out. Everyone gets together in order to ensure that Frankie isn't taken away from Noel.
One of Frankie's caregivers, is a retired doctor - Dr. Hat. After his retirement, he finds him self rather lonely and Emily organizes chess games and afternoons with Frankie, to help him find himself again. Not only does he find himself, he also falls in love with Emily and they marry.
Faith is a young girl who is also on the marketing course with Noel and Lisa and the three of them have study evenings at Noel and Lisa's flat. It is obvious to Lisa that she has feelings for Noel but Noel is totally oblivious to this. Eventually, with Lisa's persuasion he asks Faith to have dinner at the flat. They fall in love. Lisa finally realizes that there is no future with Anton, the restaurateur, and she accepts a really well paid job in London, which leaves Noel, Faith and Frankie in the flat as one big happy family.
Noel still occasionally wonders if he is Frankie's father, so he decides to have a paternity test. The results take three weeks to arrive and when he finally plucks up the courage to open the envelope, it reveals he is not Frankie's father. He is devastated but does not share this information with anyone. After a long roundabout conversation with Faith, Noel realizes that the fact he acts like a father and loves Frankie with all his heart, is all that matter.s
Best part of story, including ending:
It is full of old Binchy characters and lots of new ones. Binchy ensures that you grow attached to her characters within pages of meeting them, It is a story of hope, in the face of adversity.
Best scene in story:
My favorite scene was where Emily confronted Noel about his alcoholism. Having had a father who was an alcoholic, she is totally non-judgmental and immediately takes control of the situation and tries to find a solution to Noel's problems.
Opinion about the main character:
Noel is a young man who turns his life around out of necessity. Without the arrival of baby Frankie, he probably would have been drinking for the rest of his life, but Frankie gives him a reason to change.