Fran is a widow in her fifties. Painfully forthright and sometimes a little crass, Fran has maintained a friendship of sorts with her late husband Kirk's good friend Ollie. Ollie is a single gay man in his early sixties. He's a worrier, shy, introspective, and a little persnickety. The two of them are quite alone except for each other and as they approach aging, they vow to remain each other's human connection through their carefully laid out Rules for Aging. These two lonely people are set in their ways, shut off from the richness of life, plodding towards the quiet unremarked end until Fran decides that they should travel to Paris together, jolting both of them out of their routines. Easy travel partners they are not though, exploring Paris by revisiting the places Fran and Kirk once knew, each irritated and bothered by the other in ways that only travel can expose so clearly. For both Fran and Ollie, there is a deep sadness in the past, of those they loved and lost, and in the loss of the potential for what was.
The novel is very much a character driven one focused on two solitary people who spend much of the book alone together. Chapters alternate in perspective between Fran's and Ollie's musings on their own situation, the minor (and major) annoyances of the other person, and on their own grief and loss. The writing, especially in the beginning is almost staccato in style. This clipped, fragmentary style can contrast a little oddly with the long, descriptive passages fleshing out Ollie and Fran's characters but most often it makes the story feel very present. Fran and Ollie don't start out as the most likeable characters and their relationship, despite its long term, often feels dutiful, an obligation to their shared memory of Kirk. And the denouement of their Paris trip is not unexpected. But Frank does a wonderful thing for the reader, following Fran and Ollie into promise and happiness, moving them past the small, disheartening stagnation of the beginning of the novel. Slow to get into, the payoff in the end makes this a worthwhile read.
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Thanks to Trish from TLC Book Tours and the publisher for sending me a copy of this book to review.