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Reviews & Write-Ups


Drinking it in
Sunday, September 11, 2005
Jonathan Miles

"....Type A personalities escaping their frazzled lives, whether in Provence or Tuscany or any other region where massive olive consumption seems to render its natives adorably authentic, is a staple of the memoir trade. ... Bounds is cooler than all that. She didn't flee to Umbria to milk goats and eat very, very slowly; rather, she sat down at an upstate bar and ordered a Coors Light. (A Coors Light! Proof of her greenness.) And then another. And then, bless her, just one more."



One 'Little Chapel' beer changed author's life
Thursday, July 7, 2005
By Bob Minzesheimer, USA TODAY

GARRISON, N.Y. — The line to buy books and have the author sign them was longer than the line to buy beer, perhaps the ultimate literary compliment at an Irish pub.

The place is Guinan's, and Jim Guinan, the 79-year-old proprietor, lives upstairs. It's a hole-in-the-wall pub and general store, nestled between the Hudson River and the commuter railroad tracks 50 miles north of Manhattan.

The author is Gwendolyn (Wendy) Bounds, a 33-year-old reporter for The Wall Street Journal, by way of North Carolina.

The book is Little Chapel on the River (Morrow, $23.95), a memoir about how one beer changed her life and a history of the place and the family who changed it.

The title comes from one of the pub's regulars who calls it his "riverside chapel," which Bounds finds fitting: "Coming to Guinan's was something of a religion, with its own customs, community and rites of passage. There was even a pastor of sorts — Jim — who on a good night could tell a story that might run as long as a Sunday sermon."

The book was published last week. On Saturday, the Guinans, all three generations who work there, and their customers staged the first annual Guinan Day celebration, a kind of St. Patrick's Day in July. A local bookstore sold 190 copies of the book, many to people who aren't even mentioned in it.



Sunday, July 3, 2005
By Jamy Ian Swiss

WENDY Bounds was taking a shower in her apartment across the street from the World Trade Center when she heard the first plane strike.

A few weeks later, while searching for a temporary home in the tiny Hudson River hamlet of Garrison, N.Y., she stepped through the doors of Guinan's Country Store and Pub - "the kind of joint you don't find around much anymore, a spot where people wander in once, and stay for a lifetime."

Ten days later, Bounds and her companion moved to the historic town just across from West Point, where Guinan's - the figurative "chapel" of the title - stands overlooking the river.

Caught up in the career and social pressures of Manhattan life - the author is a writer for The Wall Street Journal - Bounds admits that she "had never really belonged to anything, except maybe my job."

Drawn to the collegial and convivial milieu of Guinan's, Bounds seeks acceptance amid its quirky cast of characters. When the moment arrives that "the velvet rope drops" and the author is invited to step behind the bar and retrieve her own beer from the cooler, we share her newfound sense of community.

The town of Garrison helps Bounds' lingering nightmares about 9/11 to fade, and allows her to rediscover some of the tranquility of her North Carolina childhood, of "the last days I remember being content with what I already had."

Bounds' elegiac tale of transformation is a story filled with sweet surprises that never becomes cloying, about a place where simple advice about taking part in a bikeathon can become a recipe for life: "Pace yourself, kid. It's a ride, not a race."



Holy Ground
After Sept. 11 trauma, reporter found perspective, family at upstate Irish bar
By Peter McDermott

Sept. 7, 2005-- Gwendolyn Bounds can still claim her seat at the bar in Guinan's. In late June, the Wall Street Journal reporter published a book about a place that is the nearest thing Garrison, N.Y., has to a town hall.



"This is a page-turning saga of Guinan's, a tiny Irish pub nestled by the Hudson River in Garrison, New York, the family of owners, and the habitués, all poetically intertwined with the author's personal vignettes. Bounds makes you want to hop the next Metro North train and never look back!"
--Margot Liddell, Shakespeare & Co. Booksellers, New York, NY



July 21, 2005
By Danny Lanzetta

...Little Chapel is a rare book, a seemingly effortless paean to small town life, where the prose flows as easily as the bottled beer served at Guinan's. Bounds is a gifted writer whose unobtrusive style serves as a metaphor for the less harried life she is trumpeting....These are not just cardboard-cutout characters with gruff exteriors ... These are real people with real flaws and real hearts who are all bound by their singular devotion to Guinan's place.



Tuesday, June 28, 2005
By Barbara Livingston Nackman

GARRISON — There's always time for one more story — and another beer — at Guinan's.

This time the talk is about Jim Guinan, his home and pub in a stucco building tucked along the Hudson River near the Garrison station train tracks.

Guinan emigrated from England and County Offaly, Ireland, with his wife and four children, 5 years to 5 months old, in 1957. A carpenter by trade, he has been the pub's host since 1959.

"A welcome. That's what it's all about, luv," said Guinan, 79.

To newcomer Gwendolyn Bounds, the homey feeling was as intoxicating as a cold brew, which is the only alcoholic libation here. No wine, whiskey or mixed drinks. It's beer in a chilled bottle or can.




"In the era of big box stores, chain restaurants, and the proliferation of cloned communities, this debut about a family-owned pub in Garrison, NY, on the Hudson River will be perceived as timely and meaningful....Two decades ago, Guinan's would have been both ordinary and unique in the way that all small-town emporiums were ordinary and unique, but probably not the subject of a marketable book. Today, its mere existence renders it extraordinary. Bounds sketches the pub's regulars with humorous, compassionate strokes and questions-in light of this place so slow to change and stubborn in its values-whether the fast track to widespread homogenization is really the route we should be traveling. Highly recommended for both public and academic libraries."
-Maria Kochis, California State Univ., Sacramento



   "...Guinan's is considerably more than a bar. It's the touchstone for a score of people who have no other long-standing constant in their lives. They share their joys, pains, fears, loves, and, frankly, blood and tears with each other. No one is judged or rejected, all are loved in each other's best way.
   It's the kind of place that I think we all want to get have someday. Guinan's is a spiritual home for anyone who wants it, and all count on it to be there when needed.
   The book moved me. Bounds didn't in anyway get emotionally extreme, but it pulled memories and feelings up that I haven't seen in a while. Even without that unexpected reaction, it is a beautiful story of what community and family should really be about. I definitely recommend it to all."
--By Jay at 17 Apr 2005 - 6:15pm



"...I think this is one of those books that many people will read, and each will find something different speaks to them. It's beautifully written: a lyrical love poem to a bar, to being Irish, to being part of the group of kind hearted (but not mushy) people who work there, drink there, and generally hang out. The author noticed a lot of wisdom in the process of that year: we should all be so lucky. For me, the line that stood out was one spoken by one character, John.

"'Pace yourself, kid. It's a ride, not a race.'"

  --Mary Bly, Fordham University English professor and best-selling author aka Eloisa James.



I don't know how to do justice to this gem of a book by Gwendolyn Bounds. Little Chapel on the River made me laugh, but most of the time I read it with tears in my eyes. She's written a nostalgic book for a small little place that most of us have never been, but she makes it feel like home. And, it's a place we all long to return to....It's a hymn that touches the heart.



"...of all the books I have read recently (even in the last few years), the book that I have enjoyed the most is " Little Chapel on the River : A Pub, a Town and the Search for What Matters Most."... As a person who spent years of my life in the neighborhood pub/gimmills of my native Inwood (the bit of God's country on the norther tip of Manhattan Island ) and who lives near the beauty of Garrison-on-the-Hudson, I can say that the book "rings" true -- Bounds has captured the camadarie of the pub, the beauty of the country and the truths that may be found in
both." -- John F. McMullen



"...Bounds' touch is light. There are no overbearing monologues about "what matters most". And yet, only a reader not paying attention can miss what she says so clearly about Guinan's and the town of Garrison. People are what imbue a place with meaning. People gravitate to places that humanize them. Making ritual and remembering history are the most meaningful of human activities. Guinan's rituals are oriented toward inclusion and community. Far beyond mere customer service, Guinan's bar is about creating community from the people (and dog) who pass through her doors. Anyone who cares, anyone who values what is found there is welcome. Race, class, worldly status, political persuasion, sexual orientation - none of these rise to the level of dividers for the patrons of Guinan's. Rather, mutual respect and appreciation are the qualities that draw the people together and make the place special." -- Linda Markin



I took a chance on Little Chapel on the River without knowing many details. The author's apartment was condemned after 9/11, so she moved upstate and spent a good chunk of time in a local bar. Then wrote a book about it. My dream is to spend a good chunk of time in a local bar and write a book about it. Or not write one. Anyway, that's why I picked up Little Chapel on the River . I was not disappointed. The book focuses on a Garrison, NY, pub/general store named Guinan's, and gives dimension to small towns and family-owned businesses everywhere. Little Chapel makes you appreciate your local watering hole if you have one, and pine for one if you don't. The addiction that keeps the regulars regular is not alcoholism, but belonging. Though the alcoholism probably doesn't hurt. As more and more places like Guinan's announce their last calls, you wonder what will happen to all the people and all the friendships that rely on it. God forbid they all start blogging. I'm giving this book my full endorsement. -- Aquaman