I purchased Rules For Visiting, by Jessica Francis Kane on Saturday morning. As often happens, I was drawn in by an amazing cover. Who’s hiding behind the potted plant? And why? My curiosity was further heightened after reading the blurb on the back cover. I handed the store-clerk my debit card, confident in my decision. Sometimes, when the stars align perfectly (the stars in this case being one thoroughly engaging book, and just enough free time to read it), I’ll finish said book in one sitting. On Saturday, the stars aligned. I love it when that happens.
Isolated and socially awkward, May Attaway is most comfortable among plants. She’s a university botanist after all. However, when it comes to human interaction, things start to get a little shaky. May’s a textbook introvert. Most of her adult life has been spent reading and analyzing literature, executing challenging gardening projects on the university’s grounds, and maintaining a weekly dinner date with her father at the local Mexican restaurant. Over the years, she’s also become surprisingly adept at avoiding her neighbors. But as May enters her forties, she starts to question her approach to life. Has she burrowed in too deeply? Maybe it’s time to come out into the light.
As luck would have it, May is unexpectedly awarded a significant amount of paid leave from her work. And after a bit of deliberation, she decides to use the time off to visit and reconnect with four of her closest friends. She is on a mission to uncover the true meaning of friendship. Just as plants need soil, water, and sunlight, May will find that personal relationships require similar care and nourishment. But in order to move forward in her journey, May must confront her past. Memories are reexamined. Painful truths rise to the surface.
Rules For Visiting is a beautiful novel. I enjoyed the character of May Attaway so much. Eccentric, highly intelligent, and super-funny, May is far more interesting than she would probably give herself credit for. I found her aversion to dinner gatherings, small talk, and social media especially refreshing. May is a prickly character, but her prickliness is not off-putting. It’s actually very endearing. Family history and mental illness are also represented in this story. These themes are depicted with a quiet balance and honesty; May always providing an even-handed narration of past and present events, and the emotions at play. Ultimately, Rules For Visiting, is about showing appreciation for those special individuals in our lives. You don’t need to surround yourself with a lot of people to feel loved or important. But it is nice to have a select and loyal group of friends that you can count on, and who can count you in return.