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Little Chapel on the River: A Pub, a Town and the Search for What Matters Most    by Gwendolyn Bounds order for
Little Chapel on the River
by Gwendolyn Bounds
Order:  USA  Can
William Morrow, 2005 (2005)
* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Subtitled, 'A pub, a town, and the search for what matters most', this is about everyday life and the people who live it. Maybe not so much everyday people the individuals who inhabit the pages of this captivating book seem a little more than everyday. Jim Guinan (pronounced Guy-nan), owner of the town of Garrison Landing's store and pub, seems larger than life. A force in the careful growth of this town in New York's Hudson Valley just across the river from West Point, he emigrated with his family from Ireland in the late 1950s. The account of his rise to being an icon is both heartwarming and sensitively told.

Gewndolyn Bounds and her partner Kathryn sought somewhere to live when 9/11 put them out of their apartment in Manhattan. Like most of us in the aftermath, she needed to have order in her life and time to reflect on where she was going. When a friend took Kathryn and Gwendolyn to Guinan's pub, a new life was born. Wendy, as she is known, became part of the local life even to the extent of working in both the store and pub on her off-hours from her regular job as a journalist for The Wall Street Journal. She begged for time away from her job to explore the little town and its inhabitants, feeling there might be a story there. She was so right. The story is there. Or stories. A skilled writer, Bounds makes the camaraderie that drew patrons to Guinan's - to incorporate the store and pub into their lives - believable and endearing.

Each and every patron has his or her story. And, with their permission, Wendy has made their stories hers - and ultimately ours - to read and enjoy. Meet the General, an ex-Army man; Fitz, an ex-federal marshall and Vietnam vet; Jim Guinan and his family; Gov. Pataki; the pub's hound dog LuLu; Wendy's neighbors Walter and Jos - all real people with real stories. Little Chapel on the River is an engrossing read that makes me wish I lived near that little store and pub, and could become a part of the whole.

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