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Girl walks into a

Girl walks into a


Out Wall Street Journal columnist Wendy Bounds spins a tale of the close-knit world of a special pub

The story of Little Chapel on the River (William Morrow, $23.95) begins in the aftermath of September 11, 2001. With their World Trade Center-adjacent apartment building badly battered, Wall Street Journal writers Gwendolyn "Wendy" Bounds and her partner, Kathryn Kranhold, suddenly need a place to stay. Weeks later, visiting in Garrison, N.Y.--a microscopic settlement on the Hudson River north of the city--they stop for a beer at Guinan's, a tiny bar attached to a general store set right on the railroad tracks. Just that fast, Bounds's life turns a corner.

Little Chapel on the River--titled after the locals' affectionate nickname for Guinan's pub--is Bounds's love song to a place where the small human courtesies still loom large. More than that, it's a tribute to 79-year-old Jim Guinan, the Irish patriarch who in 1959 opened this unique tavern just off his own kitchen.

"What's so amazing is, this is in someone's home," Bounds explains, trying to convey the family feel of the place. "You take two steps and you are in Jim's living room." Beguiled, the big-city lesbians rent a temporary place in Garrison, and Bounds finds herself becoming part of Guinan's family. When Jim falls ill she works alongside his children to keep the place open. Along the way, she comes out to the old man as they watch TV.

Bounds writes about it this way:

" 'How's your sister?' he asks politely. Kathryn's not my sister, you know, I tell him, feeling my face get hot."

They never mention the word "lesbian." Recalling the moment now, Bounds says it wasn't needed: "He clearly got it. And when he got it, his response was perfect--[he said,] 'Oh, well, she's a nice girl.' And then we moved on." The difference is that Bounds and Kranhold are now invited everywhere as a couple--because, P.S., they still live in Garrison and still "belong" to Guinan's.

Asked if other parishioners at the Little Chapel might be unhappy with lesbians in the flock, Bounds laughs. "In terms of hanging out at the bar with the guys, [we all] like beer and beautiful women. It's not that huge a divide." For Bounds, the biggest strides are made in little places like Guinan's. "The more time you spend, the more cups of coffee you have, the more breakfasts, the more beers--the more people begin to see you as part of the woodwork--this is how change happens."

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