Rules for Visiting by Jessica Francis Kane – Book Review

Title: Rules for Visiting (review copy)

Author: Jessica Francis Kane

Genre/Title: Contemporary Drama, Friendships in the Modern Age, Human Connection

Blurb from Goodreads

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.

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.

My Review

I adore quiet, intimate books. Books that are not perhaps laden with action and mad-cap adventures but are brimming with vitality all the same. Because they breathe life. Books like these get to the core of what it means to be human. They have a beating heart and connect with the reader on a soulful level.

Rules for Visiting is one such book.

It is majestic in its simplicity and honesty.

It is a book that made me laugh, made me cry, it made me pause for thought to reflect on my own life and the friendships I have made in my life.

May, the narrator and main character, is in mid-way through her fortieth year and single. She lives with her father since the death of her mother and is a quiet sort of person. Somewhat detached from the rest of the everyday world. She is given some time off from the university where she works; she is involved in gardening and horticulture there. And with her time off she decides, much like an old Austen classic, to visit with some of her lifelong friends and spend time in their homes.

And from there the book just unfurls in this most organic of manners. It’s never rushed, but also never too slow. It simply flows along to its own gentle rhythms.

I feel nourished after this reading experience. It’s probably a strange way to describe how one feels after reading a book but this book… Oh it was just a salve to my soul and I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who loves quiet and thoughtful reads.

An e-copy of this book was kindly provided to me by the publisher, Granta Publications, via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. It was published in the UK/Irl on June 6th, 2019.

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