One of the best things about Maeve Binchy’s books is her ability to incorporate richly detailed and sometimes quirky characters into gorgeous settings–usually in Ireland.

In WHITETHORN WOODS by Maeve Binchy, the setting is Rossmoor, a small Irish village centered around a “wishing well” type sanctuary; there we meet a variety of characters whose lives have been impacted in one way or another by the presence of the well.

Each character is introduced in a series of vignettes told from that individual’s first person perspective. Some of the characters’ lives intersect throughout the book, but often there is no attempt to show how the characters are connected to one another. The primary connection is the St. Ann’s well and its fate, since there is an issue of whether or not a road should traverse the town and “cut off” the well.

Except, of course, for some recurring characters, like Father Brian Flynn, Neddy Nolan (described as “not the sharpest knife in the drawer”), and a few characters connected to them, these series of individuals could be passersby in the drama of this village and its events.

While I enjoyed the usual Binchy-style characterizations and the lovely settings, the cast of characters felt too large and disconnected, and the point of the book seemed lost along the way. Therefore, while enjoyable, I would grant this story 3.5 stars and recommend it to those seeking lively vignettes that one might find in a short story collection. Those expecting the usual Binchy drama will probably be disappointed.