by Deborah Rogers –
Sometimes when you reach for a book what you’re reaching for is comfort and entertainment, something that will sweep you away and let you forget about the world outside. Many of our book club readers found this month’s selection was just that. In Iona Iverson’s Rules for Commuting, Clare Pooley provided a funny, compelling read with a quirky cast of characters and a satisfying conclusion to their interweaving storylines.
A London commuter train is the setting for this 2022 novel. Iona Iverson travels every day on the same train into London for work. She sees the same people, sitting in the same carriage, but no one ever talks to anyone, and all Iona has is the stories that she makes up about their lives. Iona is a writer, though she is feeling increasingly left out at the magazine she works for, where youth trumps experience and her advice column is treated with little respect. One day something dramatic happens on the train and it forces the passengers to interact. Suddenly the faces she sees every day are no longer just made-up stories: they become real to Iona, with lives and problems of their own.
The train carriage setting is a great way to include a really diverse range of characters. We meet men and women of all ages, ethnicities and backgrounds, something that our readers found really engaging. Along with this variety of characters comes a wide range of social issues. The interweaving storylines meant that at our meeting we talked about ageism, sexism, cyber bullying, domestic abuse, anxiety and disability. Each character had their own arc and at the intersection of them all was Iona, problem solving, connecting people and rediscovering her own worth at the same time.
If it all sounds a bit Hallmark movie’esque, well that’s because it is a bit. But the majority of our readers felt there was enough heart, and enough story, to make this a satisfying read. We enjoyed the message that a family, or community, can be built from a diverse group of people. Discussing the book in person allowed us to think about other situations where strangers can connect, and we agreed that the London setting was probably integral to this particular group of characters making sense.
Our last meeting of 2022 will be held on Tuesday November 15. We’ll be discussing Permanent Astonishment: Growing Up Cree in the Land of Snow and Sky by Tomson Highway. Join us at 6:30 p.m. at the Sidney/North Saanich Library, and don’t forget to sign up to the Book Club mailing list for the most up-to-date information: www.seasidemagazine.ca/book-club/.