Skip to main content

The Library at the Edge of the World


The Library at the Edge of the World

Hanna Casey spent years in a marriage based on lies. When she discovered what her husband was up to, she left him in London and returned to live with her mother --- temporarily --- in tiny Lissbeg, Ireland. In her 50s, employment can be hard to come by, so Hanna thanks her lucky stars she found a job as a librarian. She never expected to be in this position, what with a well-off husband, but she left him and asked for nothing. That may have been a mistake, but she has made her choice and now has to live with it.

Long ago, Hanna’s great aunt Maggie died and bequeathed her cottage to Hanna. Now, the crumbling old place looks like it might be Hanna’s key to independence. She knows she cannot live with her mother forever. In fact, the sooner Hanna can move out, the happier both of them will be. She decides to get started right away on the renovations. A local contractor named Fury shows up at the cottage just when she needs him, full of ideas on how to restore it. But she has her own plans and doesn’t appreciate his intervention. Something about the man rubs her the wrong way. Sometimes, it seems, Hanna is her own worst enemy. She soon discovers that it may be difficult to find another contractor half as competent, or one who would even consider taking on the project. Fortunately for Hanna, Fury’s fond memories of Maggie outweigh his frustration with her great niece.

"THE LIBRARY AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD...takes its readers to a beautiful part of the world at a bad time in a middle-aged woman’s life.... It’s a story of marvelous possibilities and about finding one’s strength."

One of Hanna’s duties at the library involves driving the book van around the Finfarran Peninsula. She comes to enjoy this task, maybe because of the chance to get out or maybe because of the people who depend on her for their reading material. To be honest, though, Hanna is not living her dream; she is simply making do. Maggie’s old cottage will never be the grand house in London, but it will be hers. Hanna starts to let herself believe she can find happiness there. Until the local council throws a curve ball. They welcome public input, of course, but they are proposing a huge new social complex in Ballyfin, the largest of the towns on the peninsula, and a redesign of the marina to accommodate cruise ships. Unfortunately, the Lissbeg Library will close, its contents transferred to the new center. This is a giant blow. Hanna won’t be able to afford to finish the cottage, and will be stuck with her mother and without a job. Despair once again tries to set in.

Then a wonderful thing happens. Hanna meets Sister Michael, an ancient nun with the stubbornness of a mule. Sister Michael won’t let Hanna mope around and feel sorry for herself. No, she tells her, get out there and do something about the situation. Hanna has never been much of a people person. That’s why being a librarian suits her so well. But, at Sister Michael’s urging, she surprises herself by becoming the rallying cry for a push to present an alternate proposal to the council. The result is magical. The community comes alive, throws their backs into the plan, and works together with a dedication that the wee town hasn’t seen in decades. That is their miracle. The result of their efforts is not what they expected, but, well, you’ll see. It all works out in the end, aided by an unlikely hero.

THE LIBRARY AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD, Felicity Hayes-McCoy’s U.S. debut novel, takes its readers to a beautiful part of the world at a bad time in a middle-aged woman’s life. She strives to climb out of the hole she has dug for herself and once more appreciate what Finfarran --- and life --- has to offer. It’s a story of marvelous possibilities and about finding one’s strength. Hanna Casey finds hers, and then begins to learn to trust again. This book looks small, but it holds a huge message.

Reviewed by Kate Ayers on December 1, 2017

The Library at the Edge of the World
by Felicity Hayes-McCoy

  • Publication Date: November 14, 2017
  • Genres: Fiction, Women's Fiction
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial
  • ISBN-10: 0062663720
  • ISBN-13: 9780062663726