Author: Maeve Binchy
Country: Ireland (1998)
Challenge: TBR Free
I agreed to read Tara Road simply because the binding of the novel looked worn. I thought to myself, "how terrible of a book could it be if others had loved it with marked creases." As soon as I picked it up, part of me began regretting the decision. I could not find any redeeming qualities.
The novel begins with Ria, a young Irish girl talking to her sister about love and relationships. This, I imagine is used as a backdrop to illustrate the naivete of Ria (short for Maria) in the land of love. Within a couple of pages we are joining Ria as a young adult, befriending another young Irish woman (Rosemary) and meeting the love of her life, Danny. Ria and Danny quickly marry, find a grande home, and begin having children. Their lives are intermingled with family members, co-workers, and neighbors all living on or closely to Tara Road (hence the title). This continues on for nearly (or more?) 250 pages. The conversations are painful; in fact, it was unbelievable for me to believe that they were taking place in the 1980's-1990's. Historically, I understood that Ireland's culture is vastly different than America's (i.e. divorce being introduced and accepted at the turn of the century), but the dialogue amongst the Irish characters seemed outdated.
The novel only becomes slightly more interesting after Danny leaves Ria for a pregnant younger woman which results in Ria embarking on a journey across seas as she swaps houses with an American, Marilyn. Marilyn's story joins the Ria drama as she begins to acquaint herself with the members of Tara Road and we discover why she ran away from her life in the States. Unfortunately, right when my interest is slightly captivated, it dwindles again. For another hundred pages I silently shudder at Ria's petulant behavior over her life's outcome. The feminist in me seriously wants to slap her and ask, "Are you serious?".
So why did I give it a 3 star rating? Because in spite of the characters appearing rather flat, the character tree branching so far out that I had to stop many times to recount who the person was in the story, the unrealistic dialogue (from the American even!), and the frustration at how many parts of the story meandered, I found myself carry about their lives. Caring enough that I lost a few hours of sleep on a work night to finish.
Would I recommend this book to someone? I don't think so. (Although I am sure that it has been heavily read as I realize it's part of the Oprah Book Club). Somewhere between a legacy and a soap opera lies the wasteland...*shrug* or Tara Road.