RULES FOR VISITING
Written by: Jessica Francis Kane
Read by: Emily Rankin
6 Hours and 34 Minutes
Penguin Random House Audio | Imprint: Penguin Audio
Genre: Fiction – Literary
Release Date: May 14, 2019
I voluntarily reviewed an advance reader’s copy of this book. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.
A beautifully observed and deeply funny novel of May Attaway, a university gardener who sets out on an odyssey to reconnect with four old friends over the course of a year.
At forty, May Attaway is more at home with plants than people. Over the years, she’s turned inward, finding pleasure in language, her work as a gardener, and keeping her neighbors at arm’s length while keenly observing them. But when she is unexpectedly granted some leave from her job, May is inspired to reconnect with four once close friends. She knows they will never have a proper reunion, so she goes, one-by-one, to each of them. A student of the classics, May considers her journey a female Odyssey. What might the world have had if, instead of waiting, Penelope had set out on an adventure of her own?
RULES FOR VISITING is a woman’s exploration of friendship in the digital age. Deeply alert to the nobility and the ridiculousness of ordinary people, May savors the pleasures along the way–afternoon ice cream with a long-lost friend, surprise postcards from an unexpected crush, and a moving encounter with ancient beauty. Though she gets a taste of viral online fame, May chooses to bypass her friends’ perfectly cultivated online lives to instead meet them in their messy analog ones.
Ultimately, May learns that a best friend is someone who knows your story–and she inspires us all to master the art of visiting. https://www.audible.com/pd/Rules-for-Visiting-Audiobook/1984888862
Emily Rankin offers us a great voice for this semi-detached, fairly depressed woman whose life is mired in the past. Rankin’s narration is spot on for May, an honest and socially inexperienced female character. At first I didn’t really see the point of the book. After coming back home, May suffers loss and ends up living home with her ailing father in a manual labor-intensive landscape position at the university where her father is a Professor Emeritus. She has never really kept up with her friends, to the point that she doesn’t have friends locally.
May’s decision to visit her old friends feels like it will be a disaster, but it does help her and the story is a coming-of-age for adults. Even as adults we continue to mature; as we age, our emotions can be blocked. But, I think May’s issues are partly organic – she may need some form of therapy. She reminds me of a character on a situation comedy – the quirky one who is less mature, and a little quirky. While there are some amusing moments, I did not think the book was (as described) hilarious or deeply funny.
One aspect of the book that seems important as it is mentioned several times is May’s use of Emily Post’s etiquette rules for being a guest. I think it points out that if we are shy, or don;t know what to do, we can turn to societal norms as a structure for polite behavior. The most important part of etiquette, I have been told, is that it helps to make people comfortable. So, if you are unsure following this idea is helpful.
Inevitably, a love interest forms — it’s pretty obvious on the pursuer’s side, May is a little oblivious for a while. But the knowledge will dawn on May as her visits progress and she opens up to understand her issues. She heals because she learns from friends, their families and, frankly, from their lives and problems.
We all go through tough stuff in our lives: some more than others. And, since we are all at different stages of emotional maturity for some people some events, are deleterious to development. Through seeing other’s lives, talking about the past, May’s friends help her begin to heal from her losses. It’s a good story about growth, and each chapter opens with a plant facts sheet which was amusing. As I read, I felt the chapters were sometimes like individual, but connected, shorts; it’s an interesting style.