Summer at the Garden Cafe: A Novel
By Felicity Hayes-McCoy
Harper Perennial; paperback, 400 pages; $15.99; available Tuesday, September 4
Felicity Hayes-McCoy was born in Dublin, Ireland, and graduated in English and Irish from UCD in the 1970s. McCoy then built a successful career in the United Kingdon as an actress and writer, working in theatre, music theatre, radio, television, and digital media. She is the author of two memoirs, The House on an Irish Hillside, which was released in 2012, and A Woven Silence: Memory, History & Remembrance in 2015, in addition to an illustrated book Enough Is Plenty: The Year on the Dingle Peninsula.
Hayes-McCoy made her enchanting debut in the United States with The Library at the Edge of the World, in which she transported readers to the fictional Finfarran peninsula on the idyllic West Coast of Ireland.
Hayes-McCoy returns with the second in her Finfarran Peninsula series, Summer At The Garden Cafe: A Novel, which is a heartwarming story about secrets between four generations of women, and the healing powers of books, love, and friendship.
"People who live in Finfarran say you can see four seasons of the year there in a single day," writes Hayes-McCoy. "Then, in case you'd think they were being poetic, they point out that you'll never know what you ought to wear, so you'd better be prepared for anything.
"The county town of Carrick to the east is the gateway to the Finfarran Peninsula, which stretches into the Atlantic from Ireland's rugged west coast. It's a place of fishing ports and villages, the little town of Lissbeg with its shops and school and businesses, high cliffs, a deep forest, isolated farms, and long, golden beaches. As the clouds whirl in from the ocean, they bring rain on the wind followed by rainbows. Cool, dew-spangled mornings can change to long days of burning turquoise skies and end in red-gold sunsets with a chill in the air that sends you home to hot whiskey and crackling fires. With fuel from the forest and turf from the bogs, Finfarran's homes have never lacked comfort. Yet scattered along the peninsula are emigrants' houses where the souls of the buildings have flickered out along with the fire on the hearth."
The Garden Cafe, next to Lissbeg library, is a place where plans are formed and secrets are shared. Even at the height of tourist season, people are never too busy to stop for a sandwich and a cup of tea.
Town librarian Hanna's daughter, 21-year-old Jazz, has a secret she can't share. While still recovering from a car accident and reeling from her father's disclosures about his long-time affair, she has taken a job at the Old Forge guesthouse, and started to develop feelings for a man who's strictly off-limits.
Hanna has also become involved in her own new affair, with architect Brian Morton. Meanwhile, she is unaware of the turmoil in Jazz's life, until her ex-husband, Malcolm, returns trying to repair his relationship with their daughter.
Malcolm is rebuffed at every turn and he must return to London, at which point, his mother, Louisa, is on the case. Unknown to the rest of the family, Louisa hatches a plan, and she finds an unlikely ally in Hanna's mother, the opinionated Mary Casey.
Hanna, while watching Jazz unravel, begins to wonder if secrets which Malcolm has forced her to keep may have harmed their beloved daughter more than she had realized.
However, the Casey women are no strangers to secrets, something Hanna realizes when she discovers journal, which has been long buried in land she inherited from her great-aunt Maggie.
Ultimately, the painful lessons of the past offer a way to the future, but it will take the shared experiences of four generations of women to find a way forward for Hanna and her family.
Summer At The Garden Cafe is one of the most gripping, thought-provoking books you will read this year.