It’s been a while since I’ve read a book in one sitting, and I read Rules for Visiting in a few hours on the drive home from Maine this weekend. After reading so many wonderful reviews about this book, I knew I had to pick it up. I packed it with me to read on vacation, but it turns out it was the perfect road trip companion, giving me lots to think about as we drove through the mountains and by the lakes of Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont.
When May Attaway is given an unexpected year-long leave of absence from her job as a university gardener, she embarks on a particularly unique journey of self-discovery. Single and in her 40s, May lives with her father in her childhood home. She prefers the company of plants over people, dislikes text messages and social media, and is not particularly good at maintaining her friendships. In describing herself, she explains, “I’m not for everyone, I know that” (p. 67).
Yet May does have some friends–Lindy (a childhood friend), Vanessa (a high school friend), Neera (a college friend), and Rose (a graduate school friend)–and she sees her impending year of freedom as an opportunity to rekindle and nurture her friendships with these four women. Coining the term “fortnight friends,” May plans out her visits to each one as she seeks to (re)discover who she is not by herself, but who she can be in the company of those she had been keeping at a distance for far too long.
“It seems to me that your oldest friends can offer a glimpse of who you were from a time before you had a sense of yourself and that’s what I’m after.”Jessica Francis Kane, Rules for Visiting, p. 91
This book to me was like the perfect cup of tea–warm, soothing, and good for the soul. The storyline was both quirky and intellectual, which made it a quick and easy read that inspired deeper reflection on historical and literary concepts of friendship, and the extent to which our friendships are integral to our sense of purpose, happiness, and well-being. It was a sheer delight to get lost in Kane’s beautiful prose; she so aptly captured May’s authenticity and eccentricity, making her someone I’d love to befriend in real life.
My only criticism of this book is that I simply wanted more–I wanted May’s visits with each friend to last longer, to see more depth and vulnerability in her interactions, and a more profound and sustained exploration of her newfound sense of self in light of her renewed connections with her fortnight friends. Overall though, I can’t recommend this book highly enough; it’s one of my favourite books of the summer and I suggest picking it up to enjoy along with a cup of something comforting and cozy.
Rating: 4.5/5 ★