In Aidan Donnelley Rowley’s lush and poignant novel, The Ramblers, two friends find their footing as they settle into the realities and challenges of adulthood. Clio Marsh and Smith Anderson have been friends since college. Now, almost fifteen years later, they still live together in Manhattan, both haunted by trauma and emotional damage of their pasts. While Smith is a wealthy, self-assured businesswoman whose parents are still able to lend a hand in her finances, she’s devastated over a recently broken engagement and forced to put on a happy face for her little sister’s wedding. Reeling and feeling desperately alone, Smith wavers in her ability to keep herself together for her family and for herself.
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Meanwhile, Clio Marsh, quiet and independent, seems to finally have found someone who will make her happy. Henry Kildare is the perfect gentleman who loves Clio immensely but Clio, so used to being alone, finds herself unable to share her most intimate secrets with him and causes the relationship to fracture. Her family history is brought into question when Henry asks to spend some time with her over the holidays and she’s left wondering whether to open herself up to the possibility of more heartbreak.
A novel that weaves privilege into the fabrication of a New York love letter, Clio and Smith may not be the most relatable characters, but their struggles are simple and hold the reader’s attention. Rowley writes characters whose exploration of life and happiness is founded in the idea that sometimes everything falls apart and it’s not so easy to put it back together. The Ramblers is a story that reminds us, wherever you are and whoever you are, that the world will keep turning and it’s up to you, and the support system you’ve built, to carry on. Hopeful and satisfying, if somewhat simple, The Ramblers is like a warm hug that wraps itself around you and leaves you content with the way things are.