Friday 19 February 2021

Rules for Visiting

Finished February 16 
Rules for Visiting by Jessica Francis Kane

This novel intrigued me from the descriptions and I borrowed it from my local library. The narrator of the story is May Attaway, a forty-something landscaper who lives with her father in the house she grew up in and works as a university gardener at the local university there in Anneville, PA. Some time ago, she ordered a cutting from the Fortingall Yew, a famous tree in Scotland that is believed to be at least three thousand years old. The UK Forestry Commission had announced the plan to offer cuttings, and she jumped at it. More recently someone has written a poem about the yew that grew from the cutting she took, and the poem won an award. The university has decided to give her some extra time off in honour of this and she has decided to use some of that time to visit friends. Two of the friends she decides to visit are from high school and two are from college.
The first friend lives in Connecticut and she flies to see her. Lindy is married and has three daughters, and May spends a few days with her and her family. The second friend is Vanessa, who is also married with one child. Vanessa has been married only a couple of years, but has two young stepsons. 
The third friend is Neera who lives in New York City and and has one child. May discovers when she gets there that Neera is in the early stages of ending her marriage. The situation is more awkward because May introduced her to her husband Adam.
The last friend is Rose, and Rose is also a landscape architect. May had not entered this program directly from college, so she is a few years older than Rose. Rose lives in London England and has a job creating attractive vegetable gardens for her clients. Personally, I found this visit the most interesting, and the friendship the most sharing, perhaps because Rose isn't married either.
From each visit, May takes something from her friends' homes, that represents something for her. I found this intriguing. Also, for the last three years, her father, who is in his eighties, has been leaving her copies of information on trees, for consideration as a memorial after he has died. The ones that he leaves for her during the novel's timeline are included her at the beginning of chapters, along with her thoughts on each.
We also gradually see how May's life has got to where it is. We find out what happened to her mother, and see her relationship with her father in its complexity. May's journeys also bring her out of her routine, and get her trying different things. She engages more with her neighbours and coworkers, takes the first step towards a possible romantic relationship, and more fully engages in life. 
One of the things May travels with is an older edition of Emily Post, and she tries to follow the Rules for Visiting enclosed therein. These rules are included near the end of the novel. 
I really enjoyed this book, for its thoughts on friendship, for its quirkiness and for its character May.

1 comment:

  1. I read this not long after it came out and really enjoyed it.