Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Review: The Ramblers by Aidan Donnelley Rowley

I used to race through walks, treating them as a purely exercise related thing. The older I get though, the more I ramble instead. Now when I walk outside, I am slower. I notice the budding trees. I appreciate the light, delicate birds that fly across my path. I stand and stare at the deer I come across so as not to startle them into running off. And while this all sounds idyllic, I also see the dog poop that no one has bothered to pick up. I notice the bits of trash and detritus that have blown out of garbage cans. I startle over snakes or small dead critters. I swat at mosquitoes. But these latter things do not take away from the beauty of the former. They are a part of the whole but they are not the whole. So when I ramble through nature and life, I can focus on the less pleasant experiences and allow them to drive me inside my house of my shell, or I can accept them as part of the makeup of a generally pretty wonderful experience. In Aidan Donnelley Rowley's beautiful novel, The Ramblers, her characters are learning to experience the whole of everything without letting the unpalatable or scary overwhelm the amazing, promising parts of their lives. Each has faced a loss that continues to mark them and to direct their reactions until they understand that the beauty of life is in the living of it, the opening up to experience, and the courage to risk your heart. As they ramble through this ode to New York City and their own lives, they discover that they may not be following the map they once planned for, but because of that they are finding that most wonderful thing of all: unexpected joy.

Clio is a respected ornithologist who also takes groups on bird watching walks through the Ramble in Central Park. After one of her walks, she met older, handsome hotelier Henry. The two seemed perfect for each other. Both are workaholics and neither are looking for marriage and family. Until Henry changes his mind and wants to build a shared life with Clio. But Clio hasn't been entirely truthful with Henry and her secret, the reason she doesn't want to commit, may scare Henry off. She can't decide if telling him or walking away from him would be worse. As she grapples with her fears, her roommate Smith is having to look head on at her own loss. Her younger sister is getting married and every aspect of the wedding reminds Smith of the ex-fiance she still loves. When she hears how he has moved on in his life, she is devastated. Couple that with the fact that she sees Clio on the cusp of a huge, potentially life changing decision and the fact that Smith is still living in the same building as her parents, still just a part of her extremely wealthy family rather than an individual standing on her own two feet (even her very successful organizing, life coach business was started with seed money from her father despite his disapproval), and she is feeling left behind and lonely. Tate, a fellow classmate of both Clio and Smith's at Yale, is back in New York and hurting. He developed and sold an app for a lot of money but that success didn't stop his wife from leaving him. So he's come back to the East Coast in order to pursue his love of photography, something that took a backseat to business for too long.

The novel is narrated from each of the three main characters' perspectives, showing their innermost fears and what holds each of them back. They are all complex and real feeling with distinctive voices. Clio, Smith, and Tate are all privileged but their problems are universal and they, as characters, are sympathetic despite their privilege. The novel is intimate feeling but with a satisfying depth to it. Rowley details mental illness and its toll delicately and respectfully. And she writes with an engaging, smooth adeptness that keeps the reader invested in each of these broken but healable people. This is a novel of loss and acceptance, fear and love, friendship and possibility, and it celebrates the power of finding joy in the small things around us, opening our hearts to trust, and the happy surprise of finding the unexpected. It was a delightful read.

For more information about Aidan Donnelley Rowley, take a look at her blog, like her on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter or Instagram. Check out the book's Good Reads page, follow the rest of the blog tour, or look at the amazon reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

Thanks to Lisa from TLC Book Tours.


  1. Learning to take the bad with the good, and learning to not let the bad overwhelm you is a lesson that takes some people a longer time to learn than others. But it is a valuable lesson indeed. I'd love to read this story!

    Thanks for being a part of the tour.

  2. This sounds like a book I'd enjoy, being a birdwatcher and inclined to ramble myself, lol.


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