• Hardcover: 400 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow (February 9, 2016)
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.
Buy, read, and discuss The Ramblers
Born and raised in New York City, Aidan Donnelley Rowley is a graduate of Yale University and Columbia Law School, but her dream (long unconscious) was always to write. She is the author of a novel, Life After Yes; blogs at IvyLeagueInsecurities.com; contributes to The Huffington Post; and is the founder and curator of the popular Happier Hours Literary Salons. The middle of five sisters, she lives in New York with her husband and three young daughters.
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I’m not sure what I was expecting when I agreed to read The Ramblers, but it certainly wasn’t a triptych of love stories, combined with a dual homage to both E. B. White and the city he loved to write about, New York.
Almost like the different neighborhoods in the city, the three main characters have their own sections of the book, even though their stories overlap. Clio, whom we meet first, is, in many ways, the heart of the novel. Smith and Tate, despite having stories of their own, also serve as a sort of Greek chorus for Clio. It’s her story that opens the book, her story that closes it, and even the title refers to her tours of Central Park, and desire to ‘know everything about the Ramble.’
I found all three main characters, as well as the unofficial fourth main character, Clio’s lover, Henry the hotelier, to be very well drawn. My aunt used to teach Clio, Smith, and Tate’s alma mater, Yale University, and I attended enough social gatherings at her home to recognize all three of them as perfectly plausible graduates of that institution. I also thought Henry and his brother Patrick felt equally believable, and all of the characters were dimensional, flawed, and interesting.
Two of the characters in the novel are the city itself – specifically Central Park and the area around it – and E.B. White’s essay, “Here is New York,” both of which i mentioned above, and both of which offer key insights into the characters and their lives. In fact, the references to the essay (and my own experience with White’s work, both as a child, and since) pushed me to order a copy of his collected essays as soon as I finished reading the novels.
This is a lovely contemporary story that demonstrates the way even the people who seem to have it all are just as perfectly imperfect as the rest of us. It’s a feel-good novel, but it’s one that works through heavy personal truths in order to arrive at the feel-good place. It’s not fluffy, it’s just hopeful, and very, very real.
Goes well with a hot dog from a street-vendor and a beer from a local pub.
Tuesday, February 9th: BookNAround
Wednesday, February 10th: I’d Rather Be At The Beach
Thursday, February 11th: A Bookish Way of Life
Tuesday, February 16th: West Metro Mommy
Tuesday, February 16th: Bibliotica
Thursday, February 18th: Read. Write. Repeat.
Monday, February 22nd: Books and Bindings
Tuesday, February 23rd: Book Journey
Wednesday, February 24th: Curling Up by the Fire
Thursday, February 25th: Thoughts On This ‘n That
Friday, February 26th: She’s Got Books On Her Mind
Monday, February 29th: Write Meg