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The Ramblers

by Aidan Donnelley Rowley

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10011201,056 (3.79)2
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. … (more)

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Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
4.5 stars.

Thanksgiving week proves to be eventful and life altering for the main characters in Aidan Donnelley Rowley's delightfully engaging novel, The Ramblers.

Clio Marsh is stunned when her boyfriend of six months, hotelier Henry Kildare, surprises her with an invitation to move in with him. Never having been in a serious relationship, her feelings for Henry run deep, but the realization their romance is more than just a fling highlights her inability to tell him about her dysfunctional past. Having let him intentionally misunderstand the cause of her mother's death, Clio panics at the thought of revealing her family's history with mental illness to him. She is also trying to navigate her troubled relationship with her father and when she learns he has sold the family home, Clio spends one last Thanksgiving with him and at the same time, makes peace with the ghosts of her past.

Clio's roommate and long time friend Smith Anderson has also had a difficult year after her fiancé inexplicably ended their engagement the previous Thanksgiving. Without warning or explanation, he broke things off and much to her dismay, married another woman not long after breaking her heart. Her heartache was further exacerbated by her younger sister's engagement and while Smith is happy for the couple, she cannot help feeling envious as she helps plan for the upcoming wedding. At the same time, she is still trying to prove to her wealthy father that her personal organization business is not a waste of her talents or education and that she is completely happy with her career path.

Smith's path unexpectedly crosses with one of her and Clio's former college classmates, Tate Pennington, who has newly returned to New York following the collapse of his marriage. At loose ends as he waits for his divorce to become final, Tate has recently sold his wildly successful PhotoPoet app to Twitter and now wealthy beyond his wildest dreams, he is pursuing his dream of becoming a photographer. Drinking a little too much as he tries to get over his soon to ex-wife and figure out what comes next for him, Tate is surprised by his attraction to Smith but are either of them emotionally ready for a new relationship?

Told through alternating chapters from each of the characters' perspectives, their individual stories spring vividly to life as they try to find their way through the unexpected changes in their lives. Smith and Clio's friendship has flourished over the years and they provide one another with unwavering support and offer valuable insight as they work through their individual issues. While Tate has his own group of acquaintances he interacts with socially, his new friendship with Smith helps him begin to truly move forward with the new life he is building in New York.

The Ramblers is an engrossing novel of family, friendship and love. Each of the characters are vibrantly developed with easy to relate to problems to overcome. Aidan Donnelley Rowley does an outstanding job weaving together the various storylines into a breathtaking journey of healing for Clio, Smith and Tate. An outstanding novel that I absolutely loved and highly recommend to readers of literary fiction. ( )
  kbranfield | Feb 3, 2020 |
This is a tale of 3 Yale graduates, now in their 30s, who each have difficulty with life, love, and their future. Enjoyable read. ( )
  rmarcin | Jan 22, 2019 |
Clio is finally happy. She has Henry, an older, loving, hotel entrepreneur who adores Clio. She has a career as an ornithologist fulfills her. And she has friends who love her. Her life wasn't always like this. She felt invisible and vulnerable for a long time. She harbors a secret from Henry that she worries will come out. If he sees her for who she really is will he accept her or run away?

Smith does her best not to lose it. She can't help but feel overwhelmed and envious of her little sister's wedding when that should have been her a year ago. Although still dealing with her broken heart she still tries to be the perfect daughter. In reality, she feels she could never be that person and it weighs on her. Then comes along Tate who is going through a divorce. He went to Yale with her but they never really spoke to each other. All of a sudden she's revealing a hidden secret only her best friend Clio knows. Why she has opened up to him she doesn't know. All she hopes is that she won't be left broken hearted once again.

The Ramblers is a three person POV. I know some people don't tend to like books with multiple POV's but I love them especially if they work as well as The Ramblers. I really liked Clio more than any of the other characters just because I felt I could empathize with her more emotionally. Her mother was dealing with a mental illness all of her life and it wasn't really addressed within the family. Her father is a quiet sort of man and they have been strained since her mother died a year ago. When Clio described what it was like to live with her mother I couldn't help but feel sorry for her. It's really hard seeing a parent go through something and not understanding what's happening until you are older. Her story gave a glimpse of what it was like to have a parent with a mental illness and how it affects everyone around them.

Clio was genuine and kind. She was so afraid too. Afraid that she would lose a guy she never thought she could love so much. I understood her hesitancy and found her story to be very rewarding. Her best friend Smith, on the other hand, took me a moment to warm up to. I just didn't like that she was clearly jealous of her sister. When I found out the details of what happened with her ex then I really started to understand and appreciate her. I mean it does really suck to have family members think that the person you loved for so long really didn't mean anything. Her father particularly drove me nuts with his rudeness towards Smith's former relationship. He also wasn't very nice about her career aspirations. He's that typical rich guy who frowns on those who have less than him or don't 100% agree with him. So I could understand why Smith felt lost and couldn't really see her worth at times.

Tate is that oh so special guy that Smith opens up to. Tate's divorce is pretty difficult on him but then through all of that he finds Smith. He never wanted to get into a relationship so fast but with Smith, it feels different. He can't figure her out and she's so beautiful because of that. I liked that he was not like Smith's father at all. Basically, that was the standard he had to pass after I met her father and he succeeded in that.

There's one minor thing that I didn't think was particularly necessary which was all the sexual moments that were kind of crude to me but other readers might enjoy that aspect. Otherwise, I enjoyed how each story came together. I enjoyed getting to know Clio, Smith, and Tate and seeing where their journey took them. I'm really happy with how everything turned out and kind of wish I had a glimpse of their future to see how they are all doing. ( )
  AdrianaGarcia | Jul 10, 2018 |
The Ramblers by Aidan Donnelley Rowley is a recommended novel about three successful Yale alumni in their 30's experiencing angst in NYC. All the action takes place during one Thanksgiving week.

Clio Marsh is an ornithologist who works at the Museum of Natural History. A story about her weekly bird-watching walks through the Central Park Ramble is featured in New York Magazine opens up the novel. She is torn about having a committed relationship with 50 year-old hotel magnate Henry Kildare, a man who adores her. Clio feels unable to share information about her back ground and her mother with Henry.

Clio's best friend, Smith Anderson, comes from a wealthy, privileged background. Her parents, Bitsy and Thatcher not only have provided her with a million dollar apartment (that Clio stays in too), they have financed Smith's venture into her own business. She is recovering from her recently broken engagement to a doctor and is trying to pull herself together, with the help of a phone-in life coach, in time for her younger sister's impending wedding.

Tate Pennington has just sold his app PhotoPoet for millions of dollars to Twitter and is right in the middle of a divorce. He has returned to NYC from the west coast and just happens to run into Smith. Tate is at loose ends with no job, but more than enough money. He and Smith are attracted to each other immediately.

Rowley's novel is well written and includes bits of extra information about the characters (articles, papers, etc.) or epigraphs of people the characters revere, that add some interest. The setting is all Manhattan, from the Upper West Side, to Central Park, to Greenwich Village, and drops plenty of names of landmarks along the way for those familiar with NYC. The issues these characters are dealing with are nothing rare or earth shattering, but Rowley explores how these individuals are coping with their particular problems during this one week.

First, I will have to admit that I was expecting a totally different kind of book than the one I read, which puts me in a bit of a quandary. Rowley is an excellent writer and she did explore these characters and capture their feelings. However, I didn't enjoy this book and experienced more than my fair share of eye rolling at these angsty overly privileged characters and their whining. There, I've said it. Clio is all nervous because she's afraid to tell her billionaire boyfriend who just created a penthouse apartment for them in his brand new hotel that her mother was bi-polar. What is this - the 1950's? No? Then if you love him tell him. There is medication should you have the same problem in the future. Smith broke up with her fiancée and now her little sister, the doctor, is getting married. Goodness, no wonder you can't recover from that blow without the help of your call-in life coach. And poor Tate (figuratively speaking, literally he's loaded) is just looking for meaning and love in his life.

Concerning my rating, The Ramblers is recommended based on the writing and Rowley's ability to tell a story. Personally, it may not be a novel I would chose, but it is a very well written novel and very likely geared toward a (much) younger demographic than the one I represent. I guess I'm just too old to work up a lot of empathy for the problems these young adults are experiencing without wanting to tell them to just snap out of it. And don't get me started on their names.

Disclosure: I received an advanced reading copy of this book from HarperCollins and TLC for review purposes. ( )
  SheTreadsSoftly | Oct 2, 2016 |
Aidan Rowley has crafted a fabulous novel about three, likable 30-something friends residing in NYC, having originally met at Yale. The life span of the book is one-week, and each person (Cleo, Smith and Tate) have separate chapters of their own but it all blends into a reflection of their lives. Each has experienced a trauma he is trying to recover from. And the events taking place in the one-week period are with their own perils and pitfalls. It doesn't help that it is the week of Thanksgiving, which brings out a lot of mixed familial emotions in most people. But it's during this week that they individually recognize that they can't change the past but they can change the present and the future. You can see the growth each experiences as they confront their demons and face the truth about themselves, as they help each other to succeed.
The fact that it is set in NYC is icing on the cake. Rowley writes in such a picturesque way that I could envision it in my head. To be honest, I wasn't attracted to the title as I had an immediate reaction that I would not like the book. It's actually a perfect title for the novel in more ways then one, and the book cover should win an award. ( )
  bogopea | Sep 1, 2016 |
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