by Aidan Donnelley Rowley
Release Date: February 9th 2016
2016 William Morrow
ARC Edition; 400 Pages
Genre: Fiction / Contemporary
Source: Review copy from TLC Book Tours
4 / 5 Stars
Set in the most magical parts of Manhattan—the Upper West Side, Central Park, Greenwich Village—The Ramblers
explores the lives of three lost souls, bound together by friendship
and family. During the course of one fateful Thanksgiving week, a time
when emotions run high and being with family can be a mixed blessing,
Rowley’s sharply defined characters explore the moments when decisions
are deliberately made, choices accepted, and pasts reconciled.
Clio Marsh, whose bird-watching walks through Central Park are mentioned in New York Magazine,
is taking her first tentative steps towards a relationship while also
looking back to the secrets of her broken childhood. Her best friend,
Smith Anderson, the seemingly-perfect daughter of one of New York’s
wealthiest families, organizes the lives of others as her own has fallen
apart. And Tate Pennington has returned to the city, heartbroken but
determined to move ahead with his artistic dreams.
The Ramblers is one of those books whereby I had very little idea of what to expect so I was pleasantly surprised after reading it; it seemed like a bit of a love fest to New York City as a lot of quite interesting things about the city were mentioned and the author seemed to really enjoy 'showing off' parts of it through her stories.
The story itself was about three New Yorker's, all in their thirties, facing a turning point in their lives, a crisis so to speak, and we see how they deal with it over the a one-week time span. Ordinarily, I would scoff at the time span, but it seemed to work in this novel. We have Clio, an ornithologist, having a panic attack at the thought of moving in with the man she loves and trying to reconcile her childhood pain with the woman she has now become. And there is Clio's best friend, Smith Anderson, going through her own emotional breakup, trying to figure out a way to break free from a family she adores but which also stifles her in every way. And then there is Tate Pennington, a man facing a bitter divorce despite becoming extremely wealthy after selling an app he designed. These three people connected and interconnected in ways that were quite interesting and I liked the stories they had to tell.
All three of these characters were quite fascinating in their own way: Clio had immersed herself in the study of birds, a study that was particularly important to her mother, but it was also something that helped her to evade a painful childhood, one that she needed to deal with in order to continue on with her life; Smith also had a painful past, despite the wealth and privilege in which she grew up, never quite succeeding in making her father proud of her choices, growing a bit out of control and at a loss as to how to fix things in her life; Tate was just coming out of a painful marriage, trying to cope with the how and why things fell apart, learning to live on his own for the first time in years. I know some of the criticism of this novel has to do with the privilege of these three people, but I never looked at the wealth, only at the issues they had, and found them very relatable to what people face today. Does it matter that Clio may need a Xanax to get her through the day once in a while because she suffers from panic attacks? No, not really. Does it matter that Smith may need a Life Coach to help her get through her breakup with her boyfriend? No, not really. Does it matter that Tate wants to pursue photography despite being quite rich? No, not really. I know people in these situations and they definitely don't live in $10 million apartments in Manhattan. What matters is the connections between them. And I liked the bond that Clio and Smith shared, the loyalty that Smith displayed, despite the snobbishness of her parents. And that is far more important. The themes of loyalty, and friendship came across quite strongly throughout the novel.
The author has this style of writing that I enjoyed quite a bit. While at times the narrative could be quite touching and dare I say it? poignant, at others, her characters seemed whiny and immature, and I liked that because it showed that wealth couldn't solve everything, that you have to face your issues and deal with them in order to have happiness. She was also great at showing that one should never be ashamed on one's roots; they make you the person you are, no matter what.
The Ramblers is an enjoyable novel simply because not everyone's problem is solved in the end, and I liked that a lot. And while the characters could be whiny and annoying at times, it also made them more relatable and real to me. Told through alternating narratives, the story just seemed to work. I definitely recommend this one for those of you who like literary fiction.