by Aidan Donnelley Rowley
Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: William Morrow (February 9, 2016)
For fans of J. Courtney Sullivan, Meg Wolitzer, Claire Messud, and Emma Straub, a gorgeous and absorbing novel of a trio of confused souls struggling to find themselves and the way forward in their lives, set against the spectacular backdrop of contemporary New York City.
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.
Rambling through the emotional chaos of their lives, this trio learns to let go of the past, to make room for the future and the uncertainty and promise that it holds. The Ramblers is a love letter to New York City—an accomplished, sumptuous novel about fate, loss, hope, birds, friendship, love, the wonders of the natural world and the mysteries of the human spirit.
“For a sublime second, a sentence floats through her head unsolicited, an impossible thought. I am happy. Can this even be?”
“An airplane dots the sky, and she finds herself thinking of all the people inside it, strapped to their seats, surrendering to what will be, floating between here and there.”
“That’s what happens when you skip family dinner, love. Practically written into boilerplate of the Anderson Contract. We all talk about each other, always lovingly – well, mostly lovingly – and particularly behind backs.”
“Don’t worry? Ha. That’s what mothers do. Day and night. Night and day. We worry and then we worry some more and then we worry about our worrying. You’ll see one day.”
“She walks through the empty house, empty room by empty room. Memories flicker like fireflies.”
“Friends. A dance of moments and memories, a tumble of years and tears and talks and walks, of sameness and difference, closeness and distance, words and silence, secrets and survivals big and small, a swirl of I’m okay and I’m a mess and It is what it is. And it is.”
The Ramblers was not what I had anticipated, it surpassed all expectations I had when I picked it up. Given the title, I was expecting a story about travelers, when in actuality, The Ramble, is a woodland area in the heart of New York City’s Central Park, known to be an excellent area for birdwatching, which is the specialty of one of the central characters, Clio. The book was written from the multiple POV of a small group of individuals who had initially met in college and find themselves reconnecting 13 years later. While each has found professional success, each one is currently struggling with a major life challenge or hardship, as well as long-standing family issues – and are finding themselves at a crossroads and fearful of “unraveling.” The writing was superb – it was intelligent, insightful, and emotive. The characters’ turmoil was almost tangible, and it often squeezed my cold heart. The story was well paced, well plotted, eloquently detailed, and had my rapt attention. I felt I knew these people and their environments intimately, yet I have never been to New York City or known anyone remotely like them. When forced to put my beloved kindle down and attend to my own life, I found myself pondering the characters, unable or unwilling to let them go while I went about my day, and was more than eager to return to them as soon as I possibly could. I enjoyed their stories, which did not actually conclude, and while I am more than a bit sad to bid them farewell, I know I will remain ever hopeful they each achieve their much deserved HEA.
About Aidan Donnelly Rowley
Born and raised in New York City, Aidan Donnelley Rowley is a graduate of Yale University and Columbia Law School, but her dream (long unconscious) was always to write. She is the author of a novel, Life After Yes; blogs at IvyLeagueInsecurities.com; contributes to The Huffington Post; and is the founder and curator of the popular Happier Hours Literary Salons. The middle of five sisters, she lives in New York with her husband and three young daughters.