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The Lilac Bus
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In the first eight interrelated stories of the dozen that comprise her new collection, Binchy ( Circle of Friends ) introduces eight people who travel on a lilac-colored bus from Dublin every Friday night to spend the weekend in their hometown, Rathdoon. Each of the seven passengers and the bus driver is the protagonist of an individual story; taken together, the tales have the cohesion of a novelette. Though these people have known one another for years, they are totally unaware of the compulsions, anxieties, heartaches and dreams of their fellow travelers. As is gradually revealed, everyone on the bus has a secret; thus the stories have the pull of taffy: having finished one, the reader is hooked on discovering the essence of yet another protagonist's existence. Each story delivers a kick of surprise--and often more than one--as Binchy peels back the layers of her characters' lives with empathy, compassion and not a little humor. In the process, the tales coalesce to portray the social order of Rathdoon. The last four stories are set in Dublin, with a new, equally engrossing cast. Although the pieces differ widely in social setting and circumstance, each features a woman who learns the strength of her mettle through adversity. This gallery of memorable characters again confirms Binchy as a beguiling raconteur. BOMC featured selection. (Nov.)

Two collections of stories, ``The Lilac Bus'' and ``Dublin 4,'' make up Binchy's latest book, a showcase for her marvelous storytelling ability. ``The Lilac Bus'' consists of eight connected stories, each one a revealing portrait of a Dublin worker who goes home to the outlying town of Rathdoon each weekend in Tom Fitzgerald's minibus. Torn between the anonymous independence of Dublin and the claustrophobic safety of Rathdoon, many characters lead secretive double lives: Dee has a married lover, Rupert is gay, Kev is a thief. The more fully realized stories in ``Dublin 4'' have only their Dublin setting in common. Hard hitters dealing with alcoholism, unwed pregnancy, and an unfaithful husband are lightened by the humorous ``Flat in Ringsend'' about a young girl's stab at independence in her first flat. While not as completely satisfying as Binchy novels ( Circle of Friends, LJ 12/90), this is absorbing, entertaining reading with characters to care about. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 7/1/91.-- Patricia Ross, Westerville P.L., Ohio

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