Bounds, Gwendolyn. Little Chapel on the River. New York: Harper Collins, 2005. Print.
image from: http://www.gwendolynbounds.com/images/Littlechapel_hc-330-exp.jpg
I believe that I read books when I am supposed to read them. I just finished this book, and it occurred to me today that this week is 9/11. The event is a catalyst that made this story even happen....strange how I read it and finished the book so close to the anniversary of the devastation. When I started this book, I had no idea. This was another ARC that I decided this was the summer to read it!
This turned out to be non-fiction, but it reads like a novel. The author Gwendolyn (Wendy) lived in NYC just blocks away from the World Trade Center. When the terrorists attacked, she was forced to leave her apartment. She ended up renting a house in Garrison, New York--a commuter train ride away from the city. Bounds worked at The Wall Street Journal. This training helps her capture the essence of Garrison, and more specifically the Irish pub, Guinan's, in this sleepy book with surprising life revelations.
Guinan's is not only the local pub, it is the place where quite a collection of characters come for comfort and safety and "family." Jim Guinan is the proprietor. His battle with diabetes puts the future of the bar into question. What will become of this place if Jim dies?
Each of the regulars have reasons for coming to Guinan's. The writer herself becomes attached and works the store to help the family. Guinan's is the "chapel" of the community. (The title reference is on page 57). It is a simpler place, yet the longer Bounds is there, the more she understands that these people are more than their first impressions. In the city, she had "all these gadgets in the world to help [her] save time, and yet somehow there was never enough time for everything" (Bounds 59). She genuinely gets to know and care for the "regulars" in the bar and even "wonders if all [her] smart gadgets have actually made [her] stupid" (Bounds 132).
Each chapter has a title that threads the story. My favorite title is "Human duct tape."(Bounds 222). She explains that "bit by bit the human duct tape that keeps this place together tightens its hold" (Bounds 222). I love the imagery.
I enjoy Fitz's "heh, heh, heh" and the curmudgeonly, gruff exterior he presents. I admire John & Margaret's devotion to their dad. I like how as Bounds realizes things at Guinan's, she weaves her own narrative to the story, and they actually become one thread instead of two.
My personal revelation character is Walter. At first, I thought him a bit eccentric. Then, I realized that Bounds was describing my dad. Walter explains all of the work needed to repair nail pops in the wall. When Wendy questions the amount of work involved, Walter, just like my own dad says, "It's the RIGHT way to do it. Haven't I taught you anything?" (Bounds 241). Later Wendy hears in her head Walter saying, "If you take care of it, it will take care of you" (Bounds 255). My dad says, "if you take care of it, it will last forever."
So, another advanced reading copy in my stack that finally got read. The writing is vivid and I feel like I enjoyed a pint at the bar with the regulars. I wondered about the bar and found that Bounds has a blog. This is what is posted there, "'Is the chapel still around?' That's the first thing readers ask after finishing my book Little Chapel on the River. about Guinan's Pub & Country Store in Garrison, N.Y. For a long, sweet while, the answer was 'yes.' But on January 31, 2008, Guinan's closed after nearly 50 years of defying time and predictions thanks to the generosity of the family who ran it." I'm glad that Bounds visited and recorded the history of the place as she learned it , and I'm glad I got to "visit" the place through her book.