Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Review: The Ramblers

Summary: 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. -- William Morrow

You had me at the words, "For fans of J. Courtney Sullivan, Meg Wolitzer..." in the book summary. I love these two authors and if an author is being compared to them, it's pretty much a guarantee that I will read the novel! That was certainly the case with THE RAMBLERS by Aidan Donnelley Rowley. This book about three lost souls trying to figure out their lives was a great read!

THE RAMBLERS tells the story of three friends from Yale who are currently living successful lives in Manhattan, and yet are still trying to find their way. Clio Marsh seems to have it all. She is a successful ornithologist at the Museum of Natural History, and she is adored by an older man who develops hotels. Meanwhile, her best friend Smith Anderson comes from one of the wealthiest families in New York, and she has made a career for herself by creating an organization business. And finally, there is Tate Pennington. Tate has recently moved to Manhattan after selling an app for millions and is trying his hand as an artistic photographer! All three have seemingly perfect lives, but they are all struggling with inner demons as they attempt to deal with their pasts.

I really, really liked THE RAMBLERS. I love coming-of-age stories; and THE RAMBLERS, despite having adult characters, definitely fit the bill. These three characters were all a little lost; and through their friendships, with each other as well as others, they were able to begin to make sense of their lives. Although times were definitely painful for each character, I loved seeing them get through their difficulties  -- to let go of their pasts and look towards the future.

Needless to say, I live a very different life than these characters. I am much older and have never lived in a city; and somehow, all of their stories resonated with me. I think this is a testament to the author. She managed to create very real and sympathetic characters. Initially, I thought that maybe their problems wouldn't be "real" enough; however, that was certainly not the case. Clio was dealing with secrets about her mother that were very painful and scary, while Smith was still reeling from a broken engagement and the upcoming nuptials of her younger sister. And Tate... well he was reeling from the loss of his marriage along with feeling out of sorts after selling his business.

The book takes place in Manhattan and I loved how the author used the city as such a huge presence in the novel. There were loads of references to the landmarks of this wonderful place, and I especially appreciated how she incorporated The Ramble, a 36 acre wild garden in Central Park, as a symbol in the story. I also appreciated how the themes of hummingbirds and flying were used in the book. It was all so well done!

THE RAMBLERS would make a great book club pick. In fact, I'm a little said that my group didn't select this in February when we had the chance! It's a beautifully written novel with interesting characters, and there is a great deal to discuss. I wasn't able to find a reader's guide, but I don't think your group would have any problems finding topics to discuss. Some of the themes you might want to explore include families, loss, love, friendship, second chances, mental illness, forgiveness, secrets, finding one's self, and more!

I loved THE RAMBLERS and I highly recommend it fans of literary fiction and coming-of-age stories.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.

1 comment:

bermudaonion said...

I love coming of age stories too and who can resist a Manhattan setting!