Rules for Visiting. Jessica Francis Kane.

Kane, Jessica Francis. Rules for Visiting. Penguin New York 2019. F;7/19.

An excerpt of this nice novel appeared in Granta, who have published other of Kane’s work. This is a memoir-style story about a woman preoccupied with and employed at landscape gardening who gets a month off for some professional honour, and decides to go and visit friends. The Granta excerpt was a visit by protagonist May to her grandmother who is a crabby alcoholic and whose rules for visiting represent the old-fashioned authoritarian approach which May certainly wouldn’t subscribe to.

Her friends, three of them, are very different from one another, one appearing to breeze through life in a carefully-constructed perfection, another recently broken up with her husband and having health problems, and the third somewhat of a kindred spirit. A male love interest floats in middle-aged and single May’s background.

The tone is relaxed and unpretentious, and I like May (can I presume Kane?)’s politics, not interested in the extreme left:

We live in a time when everyone gets a medal and all villains have heartbreaking backstories. No one thinks evil is intrinsic anymore, just someone making a really bad choice.

but balanced by  (almost literal) tree-hugging, and humanism:

I’ve always wanted the pathetic fallacy—the idea that the natural world takes an interest in our affairs—to be true.

A tolerable read, I suspect for some reason (certainly not open feminism) more interesting to women than men. Although the plot tended toward the sentimentally tedious a bit, the lovely writing and insight didn’t let me down.

Tentatively recommended. 7.9/8.8

About John Sloan

John Sloan is a senior academic physician in the Department of Family Practice at the University of British Columbia, and has spent most of his 40 years' practice caring for the frail elderly in Vancouver. He is the author of "A Bitter Pill: How the Medical System is Failing the Elderly", published in 2009 by Greystone Books. His innovative primary care practice for the frail elderly has been adopted by Vancouver Coastal Health and is expanding. Dr. Sloan lectures throughout North America on care of the elderly.
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